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in  North-We stern  Melanesia 




PH. D.J  D.SC. 

Complete  in  One  Volume 



Distributed  by 


New  York 

Copyright,  1929,  by 
Bronislaw  Malinowski 


19 14—19 1 8 


Printed  in  ihe  U.  S.  A, 

"«-'  o 

To  my  friend 


By  Havelock  Ellis 

The  sexual  life  of  savages  has  long  awaited  its  natural 
historian.  Owing  to  sex  taboos,  that  weigh  at  least  as 
much  on  the  civilized  as  on  the  savage  mind,  this  subject 
has  always  been  veiled  in  mystery.  The  mystery  has  been 
fascinating  or  sombre  according  to  the  general  attitude  to 
savagery  that  happened  to  prevail.  In  the  eighteenth 
century  it  was  fascinating.  That  century,  especially  in  its 
French  mode,  virtually  discovered  what  is  loosely  and  in- 
correctly termed  "Primitive  Man,"  and  found  his  finest 
embodiment  in  the  new  and  Paradisiacal  world  of  America 
and  Oceania.  These  French  voyagers  and  missionaries 
(though  there  were  some  notable  but  more  sober-minded 
English  and  other  sailors  among  them)  were  delighted 
and  intoxicated  as  these  strange  manners  and  customs, 
often  so  gracious  and  fantastic,  opened  out  before  their 
astonished  vision.  They  were  incapable  of  understanding 
them,  and  they  had  no  time  to  penetrate  below  the  sur- 
face, but  the  enthusiastic  impressions  they  honestly  set 
down  seemed  a  revelation  to  the  Parisian  world  with  its 
own  widely  unlike  artificialities  and  conventions.  Then 
was  developed  the  conception  of  the  "noble"  savage  of 
whom  Tacitus  had  caught  a  glimpse  in  primeval  German 
forests  living  in  "a  state  of  Nature."  The  nineteenth 
century  grew  contemptuous  of  what  seemed  to  it  Rous- 



seau's  superficial  and  imaginative  vision  of  the  natural 
man.  But  Rousseau  had  really  been  a  careful  student  of 
the  narratives  of  explorers  in  his  time,  as  there  is  clear 
evidence  to  show.  The  conclusions  he  drew  were  not 
more  extravagant  than  those  at  the  opposite  extreme 
drawn  by  later  generations  and  sometimes  still  persisting 
to-day.  Diderot,  likewise,  when  he  wrote  his  famous 
Sufflefnent  au  Voyage  de  Bougainville y  to  exhibit  to  his 
fellow-countrymen  the  superior  reasonableness  in  matters 
of  sexual  ethics  of  the  Tahitian,  brought  forward  various 
correct  facts- — already  set  down  in  the  attractive  narrative 
of  the  great  French  navigator — ^but  misleadingly,  because 
he  was  ignorant  of  the  social  framework  to  which  they 

In  the  nineteenth  century  the  more  sombre  view  pre- 
vailed. The  explorers  were  now  mainly  English,  and 
they  carried  with  them  the  Anglo-Saxon  Puritanism  for 
which  all  sexual  customs  that  are  unfamiliar  are  either 
shocking  or  disgusting.  "Obscene"  was  the  word  com- 
monly used,  and  it  was  left  to  the  reader's  imagination  to 
picture  what  that  might  mean.  The  sexual  behaviour  of 
savages  seemed  mostly  unspeakable.  The  urethral  sub- 
incision  practised  by  some  Australian  tribes  was  mysteri- 
ously named  "the  terrible  rite."  A  similar  mutilation  of 
the  nose  or  ear,  or  anywhere  a  little  higher  up  or  a  little 
lower  down,  would  not  have  seemed  "terrible"  j  but  at 
that  particular  spot  it  aroused  a  shuddering  and  shame- 
faced awe. 

In  the  twentieth  century  we  have  moved  towards  a 
calmer  attitude.     We  are  learning  to  view  our  own  sex 



taboos  a  little  less  solemnly.  At  the  same  time  we  are 
acquiring  a  more  scientific  spirit  in  the  investigation  of  the 
few  remaining  peoples  yet  not  too  completely  under  the 
influence  of  our  own  civilization,  regarding  them  no 
longer  with  either  adulation  or  contempt,  but  as  valuable 
witnesses  to  unfamiliar  aspects  of  our  common  human 
nature.  The  Cambridge  Expedition  to  Torres  Straits 
with  its  scientifically  trained  observers,  and  all  that  that 
expedition  led  to  in  subsequent  observations  in  other  parts 
of  the  world  by  such  distinguished  workers  as  Rivers  and 
Seligman,  may  be  regarded  as  a  landmark.  But  we  still 
pined  in  vain  for  a  picture  of  the  sexual  life  of  any  un- 
spoilt people.  One  or  two  investigators,  like  Roth  in 
Queensland,  noted  a  few  precise  objective  facts  of  the  sex 
life,  and  more  recently  Felix  Bryk,  in  his  Neger-EroSy 
has  produced  a  valuable  study  of  the  erotic  life  in  Equa- 
torial Africa,  but  it  has  not  been  easy  to  find  any  really 
comprehensive  picture. 

Such  a  task  needed,  indeed,  a  rare  combination  of  quali- 
fications j  not  only  a  scientific  equipment  but  a  familiarity 
with  various  new  fertilizing  ideas,  not  always  considered 
scientific,  which  have  of  late  been  thrown  into  the  anthro- 
pological field  j  a  long  and  intimate  knowledge  of  the 
people  to  be  investigated  and  of  their  language,  for  it  is 
not  only  in  civilization  that  the  sexual  life  tends  to  be  shy 
and  recessive  j  not  least,  there  was  required  in  the  inves- 
tigator a  freedom  alike  from  the  traditions  of  Anglo- 
Saxon  Puritanism,  however  estimable  in  their  own  place, 
and  from  the  almost  equally  unfortunate  reactions  to 
which  the  revolt  against  those  traditions  may  lead. 



All  these  qualifications  are  in  a  rare  degree  combined 
in  Dr.  Malinowski :  the  scientific  outfit,  the  sensitive  intel- 
ligence, the  patience  in  observation,  the  sympathetic  in- 
sight. He  is  known  by  numerous  monographs  on  various 
sociological  aspects  of  savage  culture,  mostly  based  on  his 
research  among  the  Trobriand  Islanders  off  the  east  coast 
of  New  Guinea,  among  whom  he  lived  in  close  touch  for 
two  years.  His  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific — the 
original  and  elaborate  analysis  of  the  peculiar  kula  ex- 
change system  of  the  Trobriands — is  recognized  as  a  bril- 
liant achievement  of  ethnographic  research.  It  is,  indeed, 
more  than  merely  ethnographic,  and  as  Sir  James  Frazer, 
who  introduced  the  book,  pointed  out,  it  is  characteristic 
of  Dr.  Malinowski's  method  that  he  takes  full  account  of 
the  complexity  of  human  nature.  An  institution  that,  at 
the  first  glance,  might  seem  to  be  merely  economic,  is 
found  in  his  searching  hands  to  be  not  merely  commercial, 
but  bound  up  with  magic  and  ministering  to  the  emotional 
and  sesthetic  needs  of  the  people  who  exercise  it. 

In  the  field  of  sex,  as  I  have  remarked,  it  is  only  to-day 
that  investigation  has  become  possible.  And  this  not  sim- 
ply because  our  sex  taboos  have  at  last  lost  something  of 
their  stringency.  It  is  only  to-day  that  it  has  here  be- 
come possible  to  ask  those  right  questions  which,  as  Bacon 
said,  are  the  half  of  knowledge.  A  quarter  of  a  century 
ago  the  study  of  sex  was  merely  the  study  of  extravagant 
aberrations,  and,  outside  this,  just  sentimental  rhapsody. 
It  has  now  become — accordingly  as  we  approach  it — 
either  a  field  of  natural  history,  to  be  studied  in  the  ordi- 
nary spirit  of  the  field  naturalist,  or  else  a  department  of 


psychological  dynamics  where  forces  are  at  play  which 
may  often  be  traced  beneath  the  surface  and  take  on 
strange  forms  and  influence  even  those  modes  of  activity 
which  seem  most  remote  from  sex.  In  this  department, 
the  genius  of  Freud — as  some  think,  in  ways  that  are 
exaggerated — has  given  an  impetus  to  the  study  of  the 
sexual  impulse  and  to  its  possible  manifestations  even  in 
the  myths  and  customs  of  savages.  To  these  develop- 
ments Dr.  Malinowski  is  fully  alive.  He  was  even  pre- 
pared at  one  time  to  be  much  more  nearly  a  Freudian  than 
we  can  now  describe  him.  To-day  he  is  neither  Freudian 
nor  anti-Freudian  J  he  recognizes  the  fertilizing  value  of 
Freud's  ideas,  and  he  is  prepared  to  utilize  them  whenever 
they  seem  helpful  in  elucidating  the  phenomena  under 
investigation.  These  phenomena  he  views  with  a  char- 
acteristically wide  outlook  5  while  not  neglecting  the  pre- 
cise technique  of  the  erotic  art  among  the  Trobriand 
Islanders,  he  duly  investigates  their  whole  sexual  life  in 
its  aesthetic,  emotional,  family,  and  social  implications. 
Now  that  he  has  shown  the  way,  other  students  doubtless 
will  be  inspired  to  follow.  But  in  this  field  not  all  who 
are  called  are  chosen.  The  special  combination  of  needed 
qualifications  can  rarely  be  found,  and  meanwhile  the  op- 
portunities are  every  year  diminishing.  It  may  safely  be 
said  that  The  Sexual  Life  of  Savages  in  North-western 
Melanesia  will  become  a  classic  of  which  the  value  must 
increase  with  the  passage  of  time. 

So  far  I  have  been  speaking  of  this  work  in  its  relation 
to  science.  But  I  believe  that  it  also  has  wider  relations. 
It  may  interest  not  only  those  who  are  concerned  with 



origins  and  with  what  they  may  perhaps  consider  exotic 
forms  of  social  life,  but  also  those  who  are  concerned  with 
the  present  or  the  future,  and  the  forms  of  social  life  at 

We  often  overlook  the  fact,  which  Is  yet  well  estab- 
lished, that  the  rate  and  level  of  evolution  are  not  at 
every  point  equal.  We  do  not  place  the  negro  at  the 
summit  of  human  development  3  but  at  some  points  he  is 
further  evolved  in  physical  form  than  the  white  man. 
Or,  if  we  take  a  wider  range,  it  has  long  been  clear  that 
the  forefoot  of  the  horse  has  reached  a  higher  stage  of 
evolution  than  that  of  other  animals  in  general  much 
higher  in  the  scale.  So,  also,  on  the  psychic  side,  we  are 
accustomed  to  regard  the  civilization  of  classic  antiquity 
as  in  some  respects  higher  than  our  own  which  yet  has  pro- 
gressed much  further  along  other  lines. 

In  the  life  of  sex  we  are  concerned  with  an  impulse  of 
profound  interest  to  mankind  from  the  first.  It  occupies 
a  field,  one  may  note,  which  may  be  cultivated  even  by 
peoples  whose  level  of  culture  is,  in  many  important  re- 
spects, far  from  high.  It  may  even  be  said  that  an  absorp- 
tion in  other  fields  of  culture  is  actually  detrimental  to 
culture  in  the  sexual  field,  and,  as  we  know,  a  marvellous 
expansion  of  the  mechanical  arts  and  exalted  achievements 
in  the  intellectual  sphere  may  co-exist  with  a  sexual  cul- 
ture thrust  back  into  conventions  and  routines  which  are 
scarcely  even  regarded  as  open  to  discussion.  It  is  pos- 
sible to  be  sensitive  and  alive  to  achievement  In  the  more 
complex  human  arts  and  yet,  at  the  same  time,  remain 



crude  in  the  more  fundamental  arts.    The  reverse  devel- 
opment is  also  possible. 

So  it  may  happen  that,  in  presence  of  the  picture  Dr. 
Malinowski  here  presents  to  us,  we  become  aware,  not 
only  of  a  unique  contribution  to  anthropological  research, 
but  of  suggestions  bearing  on  civilized  life  and  its  efForts 
towards  social  reform.  The  Trobriand  Islanders  are  a 
small  community  living  in  a  confined  space  5  they  only 
supply  one  of  the  patterns  of  savage  life,  though  it  may 
well  be  a  fairly  typical  pattern.  When  we  study  it  we 
find  not  merely  that  in  this  field  the  savage  man  is  very 
like  the  civilized  man,  with  the  like  vices  and  virtues 
under  different  forms,  but  we  may  even  find  that  in  some 
respects  the  savage  has  here  reached  a  finer  degree  of 
civilization  than  the  civilized  man.  The  comparisons  we 
can  thus  make  furnish  suggestions  even  for  the  critical 
study  of  our  own  social  life. 

H.  E. 



Preface  by  Havelock  Ellis 
Introduction  by  the  Author     . 




I.    The  Relations  Between  the  Sexes  in  Tribal 

1.  The  Principles  of  Mother-Right 

2.  A  Trobriand  Village        .... 

3.  Family  Life     ...... 

4.  The  Division  of  Property  and  Duties  Accord 

ing  to  Sex    ...... 




The  Status  of  Woman  in  Native  Society 

1.  The  Privileges  and  Burdens  of  Rank 

2.  Mortuary  Rites  and  Festivities 

3.  Woman's  Share  in  Magic 

Prenuptial  Intercourse  . 

1.  The  Sexual  Life  of  Children 

2.  Age  Divisions  ..... 



The  Amorous  Life  of  Adolescence 
The  Bachelors'  House     . 

The  Avenues  to  Marriage 

1.  Motives  for  Marrying     . 

2.  The  Consent  of  the  Wife's  Family 

3.  Marriage   Gifts 

4.  Infant  Betrothal  and  Cross-Cousin  Marriage 

5.  Matrimonial  Alliances  in  a  Chief's  Family 

6.  Ceremonies  of  Infant  Betrothal     . 






















Husband  and  Wife  as  Companions 

Adultery  and  Sexual  Jealousy 

Economic  Tribute  from  the  Wife's  Family 

The  Polygamy  of  Chiefs 

The  Domestic  Aspect  of  Polygamy 

Divorce  and  the  Dissolution  of  Marriage 
BY  Death         .        .        .        .        ... 

1.  Divorce    ........ 

2.  Death  and  the  Bereaved 

3.  Funeral   Ceremonies  and   the   Obligations  of 

Mourning     ....... 

4.  The  Ideology  of  Mourning    .... 

Procreation  and  Pregnancy  in  Native  Be- 
lief AND  Custom 

1.  The    Male    and    Female    Organism    and    the 

Sexual  Impulse  in  Native  Belief 

2.  Reincarnation  and  the  Way  to  Life  Through 

the  Spirit  World 

3.  Ignorance  of  Physiological  Paternity 

4.  Words  and  Deeds  in  Testimony 

5.  Fatherless  Children  in  a  Matrilineal  Society  . 

6.  The  Singular  Claims  of  Sociological  Paternity 

Pregnancy  and  Childbirth 

Preparation  for  the  First  Pregnancy  Rites 
Ceremonial  of  First  Pregnancy 
Customs  of  Pregnancy  and  Confinement 
Mother  and  Child 

Customary  Forms  of  Licence 

1.  The  Erotic  Element  in  Games 

2.  Games  Involving  Physical  Contact 

3.  Seasons  of  Love  and  Festivity 

4.  Ceremonial  Gatherings — Kayasa     . 

5.  Orgiastic  Festivals   .         .         .         . 














6.  Ulatile — ^Youth   in   Search   of   Amorous   Ad- 

venture ....... 

7.  Katuyausi — A  Ceremonial  Escapade  of  Girls 

8.  Yausa — Orgiastic  Assaults  by  Women    . 

9.  Actuality  of  Orgiastic  Licence 

Love-Making  and  the  Psychology  of  Erotic 


Erotic  Attraction   ..... 

Repulsion  by  Ugliness,  Age,  and  Disease 
Beauty  of  the  Human  Face  and  Body  . 
The  Care  of  the  Body 
The  Course  of  an  Intrigue    . 
Cases  of  Personal  Attachment 
The  Commercial  Aspect  of  Love 
Jealousy  ...... 

Beauty,  Colour,  and  Scent  in  Love-Making 
The  Conversation  of  Tv^^o  Lovers 
Erotic  Approaches  .... 

The  Act  of  Sex    .         .         r        .         . 









XL    The  Magic  of  Love  and  Beauty  . 

1.  The  Importance  of  Beauty 

2.  Ceremonial  Occasions  of  Beauty  Magic 

3.  Beauty  Magic:  The  Ritual  of  Washing 

4.  Beauty  Magic:  The  Ritual  of  Adornment 

5.  The  Magic  of  Safety  and  Renown  at  Festivi 

ties        ...... 

6.  The  Magic  of  Love 

7.  The  Rite  and  the  Spell  in  Love  Magic 

8.  The  Realities  of  Love  Magic 

9.  The  Magic  of  Oblivion 

Erotic  Dreams  and  Fantasies 

1.  Dreams     ...... 

2.  Sex  in  Folk-Lore — String  Figures  . 

3.  Sex  in  Folk-Lore — Facetise 

4.  Sex  in  Folk-Lore — Legend  and  Myth 

5.  The  Erotic  Paradise  of  the  Trobriander 
















XIII.    Morals  and  Manners 

1.  Decency  and  Decorum    . 

2.  The  Morals  of  Sex 

3.  The  Censure  of  Sexual  Aberrations 

4.  Modesty  in  Speech  and  Behaviour   . 

5.  Exogamy  and  the  Prohibition  of  Incest 

6.  The  Supreme  Taboo 

XIV.    A  Savage  Myth  of  Incest 

1.  The  Sources  of  Love 

2.  The  Original  Text  of  the  Myth 

3.  Cases  of  Actual  Incest    . 











Two  Pretty  Girls,  One  Disfigured  by  Mourning 


1.  The  Central  Place  of  Omarakana 

2.  The  Chief  and  His  Sons 

3.  Two  Hereditary  Enemies 

4.  The  Chief's  Favourite  Wife  and  Her  Family 

5.  Ceremonial  Cooking  of  Taro 

6.  Women  with  Carrying  Pads 

7.  A  Family  on  the  Road 

8.  Native  Interior 

9.  A  Stage  in  Skirt  Making 

10.  Drying  Skirt  Fibre 

1 1 .  The  Mortuary  Dance 

12.  Distribution  of  Skirts  in  Mortuary  Ritual 

13.  Decorated  Women 

14.  Men  in  Full  Festive  Attire 

15.  Children   Showing   a   Game   to   the   Ethnog- 


16.  The  Children's  Republic 

17.  Small  Boys  Playing  at  Sagali 

18.  A  Group  of  Girls 

19.  Boys  in  the  Yam  Garden 

20.  A  Decorated  Bachelors'  House 

21.  Girl  IN  Front  OF  A  5c7XC7M^T?7L^ 

22.  Kalogusa,  the  Chief's  Son 

23.  Marriage  Gift  in  Preparation 

24.  The  Marriage  Gift  Displayed 

25.  MiTAKATA  and   OrAYSE 

26.  A  Happy  Family 

27.  The  Marriage  Tribute  in  the  Garden 

28.  Carrying  the  Harvest  Gift 

29.  The  Urigubu  in  the  Village 

30.  A  Polygamous  Family 


31.  A  Chief's  Wife  and  Her  Annual  Dowry 

32.  Decorated  Corpse 

33.  Body  After  First  Exhumation 

34.  Widow  in  Full  Mourning 

35.  Widow  in  Half  Mourning 

36.  A  Decorated  Jawbone 


38.  Albino 

39.  An  Unmarried  Mother 

40.  Two  Brothers 

41.  Father  and  Son 

42.  The  Pregnancy  Cloak 

43.  First  Charming  of  the  Pregnancy  Robes 

44.  Cutting  the  White  Lily  Leaves 

45.  The  Way  into  the  Water 

46.  The  Ritual  Bathing 

47.  Second  Charming  of  the  Pregnancy  Cloaks 

48.  Guarded  from  Contact  with  Earth 

49.  Return  to  the  Father's  House 

50.  Vigil  on  the  Platform 

51.  A  Mother  and  Her  First-born 

52.  Children  in  a  Round  Game 

53.  A  Figure  Game 

54.  Rats 

55.  The  Fishing  of  Kuboya 

56.  Typical  Scenery  of  Hide  and  Seek 

57.  A  Harvest  Scene 

58.  A  Ceremonial  Dancing  Demonstration 

59.  The  U l ATI le  of  Kwaybwaga 

60.  Ulatilb  on  the  Lagoon 

61.  Girls   Decorated   for  Katuyausi   or   Harvest 


62.  Katuyausi  Party 

63.  The  Beach  of  the  Lagoon 

64.  Bagido'u 

65.  Kaydebu  Dance 

66.  A  Melanesian  Beauty 

67.  A  Type  Not  Admired  by  the  Natives 

68.  Ethnographer  with  a  Man  in  a  Wig 


69.  The  Leaf  and  the  Dress 

70.  Lousing 

71.  Ceremonial  Distribution  of  Food 

72.  After  the  Distribution 

73.  Rehearsal  of  a  Kasawaga  Dance 

74.  The  Crowd  Assembled   Outside   the   Village 

for  Beauty  Magic 

75.  The  Magic  of  Mother  of  Pearl 

76.  Magical  Face  Painting 

77.  The  Ritual  Placing  of  the  Vana 

78.  The  Last  Touch  to  the  Dancers'  Toilet 

79.  Ready  for  the  Final  Dance 

80.  Women  in  the  Water  Collecting  Shells  . 

81.  Head  Pool  of  the  Tidal  Creek  of  Kwabulo 

82.  The  Inuvayla'u  Dance 

83.  UsiKELA  Bananas  in  Kaulagu 

84.  Accumulation  of  Food  for  a  Feast 

85.  Crowd   Collected  on   a   Beach   to   Admire   a 

Large   Catch 

86.  A  Small  Group  Eating  Taro 

87.  Typical  Lagoon  Village 

88.  Tokeda — the    Belt    of    Jungle    Adjoining    a 


89.  Ancestral   Emergence   Spot  in   a   Small   Vil- 

lage ON  THE  Island  of  Vakuta 

90.  Mother  and  Child 

91.  Father  and  Child 

The  Trobriand  Islands 


1.  Plan  of  Village  of  Omarakana 

2.  Plan  of  a  Dwelling-House 

3.  Cats' -Cradle 

4.  The  Beach  of  Kumilabwaga 



I  HAVE  chosen  for  this  book  the  plainest,  that  is  the 
most  truthful  title,  partly  to  contribute  towards  the  re- 
habilitation of  the  indispensable  and  often  misused  term 
sexual,  partly  to  announce  directly  what  the  reader  has 
to  expect  in  the  most  outspoken  paragraphs.  Sex  is  not 
a  mere  physiological  transaction  to  the  primitive  South 
Sea  Islander  any  more  than  it  is  to  us  3  it  implies  love 
and  love-making  j  it  becomes  the  nucleus  of  such  vener- 
able institutions  as  marriage  and  the  family  j  it  pervades 
art  and  it  produces  its  spells  and  its  magic.  It  dominates 
in  fact  almost  every  aspect  of  culture.  SeXy  in  its  widest 
meaning — and  it  is  thus  that  I  have  used  it  in  the  title 
of  this  book — is  rather  a  sociological  and  cultural  force 
than  a  mere  bodily  relation  of  two  individuals.  But  the 
scientific  treatment  of  this  subject  obviously  involves  also 
a  keen  interest  in  the  biological  nucleus.  The  anthro- 
pologist must  therefore  give  a  description  of  the  direct 
approaches  between  two  lovers,  as  we  find  them  in 
Oceania,  shaped  by  their  traditions,  obeying  their  laws, 
following  the  customs  of  their  tribe. 

In  Anthropology  the  essential  facts  of  life  must  be 
stated  simply  and  fully,  though  in  scientific  language,  and 
such  a  plain  statement  cannot  really  offend  the  most  deli- 
cately minded  nor  the  most  prejudiced  reader  j  nor  can  it 
be  of  any  use  to  the  seeker  after  pornography 3  least  of  all 



can  it  entice  the  unripe  interest  of  the  young.  For  pruri- 
ency consists  in  oblique  day-dreaming  and  not  in  simple 
and  direct  statement.  The  reader  will  find  that  the  na- 
tives treat  sex  in  the  long  run  not  only  as  a  source  of 
pleasure,  but,  indeed,  as  a  thing  serious  and  even  sacred. 
Nor  do  their  customs  and  ideas  eliminate  from  sex  its 
power  to  transform  crude  material  fact  into  wonderful 
spiritual  experience,  to  throw  the  romantic  glamour  of 
love  over  the  technicalities  of  love-making.  The  institu- 
tions of  the  Trobriand  community  allow  mere  brutal  pas- 
sion to  ripen  into  life-long  love,  to  be  shot  through  with 
personal  affinities,  to  be  strengthened  by  the  manifold 
bonds  and  attachments  created  through  the  advent  of 
children,  by  the  mutual  anxieties  and  hopes,  by  the  com- 
mon aims  and  interests  of  family  life. 

It  is  perhaps  in  the  blending  of  the  directly  sensual 
with  the  romantic  and  in  the  wide  and  weighty  socio- 
logical consequences  of  what  to  start  with  is  the  most  per- 
sonal event — it  is  in  this  richness  and  multiplicity  of  love 
that  lies  its  philosophic  mystery,  its  charm  for  the  poet 
and  its  interest  for  the  anthropologist.  This  many-sided- 
ness of  love  exists  among  the  Trobrianders  as  well  as  with 
us,  and  it  brings  nearer  to  us  even  that  which  to  most 
might  at  first  appear  crude  and  uncontrolled. 

To  ignore  this  latter  aspect,  however,  to  shirk  treating 
the  material  foundations  of  love  would  in  a  scientific  work 
mean  completely  to  stultify  all  results.  It  would  be  to 
commit  the  unpardonable  sin  of  evading  the  real  issue. 
Anyone  who  does  not  wish  to  be  concerned  with  sex  need 
not  acquire  or  read  this  book  5  and  those  who  approach 
the  subject  in  a  non-scientific  spirit  may  be  warned  from 



the  outset  that  they  will  find  nothing  suggestive  or  allur- 
ing in  the  following  chapters. 

I  want  to  make  it  quite  clear  that  the  comparisons  be- 
tween native  and  European  conditions  scattered  here  and 
there,  especially  in  the  later  chapters,  are  not  meant  to 
serve  as  a  sociological  parallel — for  that  they  are  far  too 
slight.  Still  less  are  the  native-European  parallels  of  the 
present  book  meant  to  provide  a  homily  on  our  own  fail- 
ings or  a  pasan  on  our  virtues.  They  are  given  simply 
because,  in  order  to  explain  strange  facts,  it  is  necessary  to 
hark  back  to  familiar  ones.  The  Anthropologist  in  his 
observations  has  to  understand  the  native  through  his  own 
psychology,  and  he  must  form  the  picture  of  a  foreign 
culture  from  the  elements  of  his  own  and  of  others  prac- 
tically and  theoretically  known  to  him.  The  whole  diffi- 
culty and  art  of  field-work  consists  of  starting  from  those 
elements  which  are  familiar  in  the  foreign  culture  and 
gradually  working  the  strange  and  diverse  into  a  compre- 
hensible scheme.  In  this  the  learning  of  a  foreign  cul- 
ture is  like  the  learning  of  a  foreign  tongue:  at  first  mere 
assimilation  and  crude  translation,  at  the  end  a  complete 
detachment  from  the  original  medium  and  a  mastery  of 
the  new  one.  And  since  an  adequate  ethnographic  descrip- 
tion must  reproduce  in  miniature  the  gradual,  lengthy, 
and  painful  processes  of  field-work,  the  references  to  the 
familiar,  the  parallels  between  Europe  and  the  Trobriands 
have  to  serve  as  starting  points. 

After  all,  to  reach  the  reader  I  have  to  rely  upon  his 
personal  experiences  which  are  built  up  in  our  own  society. 
Exactly  as  I  have  to  write  in  English,  and  translate  na- 
tive terms  or  texts  into  English,  so  also  I  have,  in  order 



to  make  them  real  and  comprehensible,  to  translate  Mela- 
nesian  conditions  into  our  own.  Whatever  error  there  is 
in  either  procedure  is  inevitable.  An  Anthropologist  may 
be  well  aware  of  traduttore  tradltorey  but  he  cannot  help 
it — he  cannot  banish  his  few  patient  readers  for  a  couple 
of  years  to  a  South  Sea  atoll,  and  make  them  live  the  life 
for  themselves  3  he  has,  alas,  to  write  books  about  his 
savages  and  lecture  on  them! 

One  more  point  about  the  method  of  presentation. 
Every  conscientious  scientific  observer  should  state  not 
only  what  he  knows  and  how  he  has  come  to  know  it,  but 
also  indicate  those  gaps  in  his  knowledge  of  which  he  is 
aware,  the  failures  and  omissions  in  his  fieJd-work.  I 
have  given  already  (^Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pad  fie ^ 
ch.  i)  a  full  account  of  my  credentials:  length  of  time 
spent  on  the  islands,  linguistic  qualifications,  methods  of 
collecting  documents  and  statements.  I  shall  not  repeat 
this  all  here,  and  the  few  necessary  additional  remarks 
on  the  difficult  study  of  native  intimate  life,  the  reader 
will  find  in  the  text  (ch.  ix,  95  ch.  x,  intro.5  chs.  xii  and 
xiii,  intros.) 

The  competent  and  experienced  ethnographer  and 
anthropologist — and  only  such  a  one  is  interested  in  the 
margin  of  accuracy,  in  the  methodology  of  evidence  and 
in  the  gaps  in  information — will  easily  see  from  the  data 
presented  throughout  this  book,  where  the  documentation 
is  thin  and  where  it  is  full.  When  I  make  a  simple  state- 
ment without  illustrating  it  from  personal  observation  or 
adducing  facts,  this  means  that  I  am  mainly  relying  on 
what  I  was  told  by  my  native  informants.  This  is,  of 
course,  the  least  reliable  part  of  my  material. 



I  am  especially  aware  that  my  knowledge  of  obstetrical 
facts  and  of  the  women's  attitude  at  pregnancy  and  child- 
birth is  rather  meagre.  Again  the  father's  behaviour  at 
the  time  of  childbirth  and  male  psychology  with  regard 
to  it,  were  not  studied  as  fully  as  they  should  have  been. 
Many  minor  points  throughout  the  book  are  treated  in  a 
manner  which  will  make  clear  to  the  specialist,  not  only 
where  the  information  is  incomplete,  but  also  what  fur- 
ther inquiry  would  be  needed  to  fill  out  the  gaps.  On 
most  points  of  fundamental  importance,  I  am  convinced 
that  I  have  come  down  to  bedrock. 

One  gap,  regrettable  but  hardly  to  be  remedied,  is  the 
small  number  of  illustrations  bearing  directly  on  erotic 
life.  Since  this,  however,  takes  place  in  deep  shadow, 
literally  as  well  as  figuratively,  photographs  could  only 
be  faked,  or  at  best,  posed — and  faked  or  posed  passion 
(or  sentiment)  is  worthless. 

The  many  obligations  incurred  in  the  course  of  my 
field-work  have  been  acknowledged  elsewhere  {Argonauts 
of  the  Western  Pacific)  j  but  I  should  like  here  to  men- 
tion a  very  special  indebtedness  to  my  friend,  Billy 
Hancock,  trader  and  pearl-buyer  in  the  Trobriands,  whose 
mysterious  death  occurred  while  I  was  writing  this  book. 
He  was  ill,  and  awaiting  the  South-bound  boat  at  Samarai, 
the  European  settlement  in  the  east  of  New  Guinea.  One 
evening  he  disappeared,  never  to  be  seen  or  heard  of 
again.  He  was  not  only  an  excellent  informant  and  help- 
mate, but  a  real  friend,  whose  company  and  assistance 
added  a  great  deal  of  material  comfort  and  moral  support 
in  a  somewhat  exacting  and  tedious  existence. 

In  writing  this  book  I  was  greatly  stimulated  by  the 



interest  taken  in  it  by  Mr.  Havelock  Ellis,  whose  work 
and  whose  example  as  a  pioneer  in  honest  thought  and 
outspoken  research  I  have  always  admired  and  revered. 
His  preface  materially  enhances  the  value  of  this  book. 

The  group  of  my  friends,  pupils,  and  colleagues  who 
have  been  associated  with  Anthropological  Research  Work 
and  Teaching  at  the  London  School  of  Economics  for  the 
last  few  years,  have  helped  me  greatly  to  clarify  my  ideas 
and  to  present  my  material,  more  especially  on  the  sub- 
ject of  family  life,  kinship  organization,  and  marriage 
law.  The  names  of  Mrs.  Robert  Aitken  (Miss  Barbara 
Freire-Marecco),  of  Dr.  R.  W.  Firth  (now  in  the  Solo- 
mons), of  Mr.  E.  E.  Evans-Pritchard  (now  among  the 
Azande),  of  Miss  Camilla  Wedgwood  (now  in  Aus- 
tralia), of  Dr.  Gordon  Brown  (now  in  Tanganyika),  of 
Dr.  Hortense  Powdermaker  (now  on  the  way  to  Papua), 
of  Mr.  I.  Schapera  (late  of  South  Africa),  of  Mr. 
T.  J.  A.  Yates  (late  of  Egypt),  of  Miss  Audrey  Rich- 
ards, will  in  my  mind  be  always  gratefully  remembered 
in  association  with  the  drafting  of  the  more  difficult  socio- 
logical chapters  of  this  book. 

My  greatest  debt  in  this  book,  as  in  most  I  have  written, 
is  to  my  wife.  Her  counsel  and  practical  co-operation 
have  made  the  writing  of  the  Argonauts  of  the  Western 
Pacific  and  of  this  an  agreeable  task  instead  of  a  drudgery. 
If  there  is  any  value  and  interest  in  these  books  for  me 
personally,  it  comes  from  her  share  in  the  common  work. 

B.  M. 


January^   1929. 




Man  and  woman  in  the  Trobriand  Islands — ^their  rela- 
tions in  love,  in  marriage,  and  in  tribal  life — ^this  will 
be  the  subject  of  the  present  study. 

The  most  dramatic  and  intense  stage  in  the  intercourse 
between  man  and  woman,  that  in  which  they  love,  mate, 
and  produce  children,  must  occupy  the  dominant  place  in 
any  consideration  of  the  sexual  problem.  To  the  aver- 
age normal  person,  in  whatever  type  of  society  we  find 
him,  attraction  by  the  other  sex  and  the  passionate  and 
sentimental  episodes  which  follow  are  the  most  significant 
events  in  his  existence,  those  most  deeply  associated  with 
his  intimate  happiness  and  with  the  zest  and  meaning  of 
life.  To  the  sociologist,  therefore,  who  studies  a  par- 
ticular type  of  society,  those  of  its  customs,  ideas,  and 
institutions  which  centre  round  the  erotic  life  of  the  in- 
dividual should  be  of  primary  importance.  For  if  he 
wants  to  be  in  tune  with  his  subject  and  to  place  it  in  a 
natural,  correct  perspective,  the  sociologist  must,  in  his 
research,  follow  the  trend  of  personal  values  and  in- 
terests. That  which  means  supreme  happiness  to  the 
individual  must  be  made  a  fundamental  factor  in  the 
scientific  treatment  of  human  society. 



But  the  erotic  phase,  although  the  most  important,  is 
only  one  among  many  in  which  the  sexes  meet  and  enter 
into  relations  with  each  other.  It  cannot  be  studied  out- 
side its  proper  context,  without,  that  is,  being  linked  up 
with  the  legal  status  of  man  and  woman  3  with  their  do- 
mestic relations  5  and  with  the  distribution  of  their  eco- 
nomic functions.  Courtship,  love,  and  mating  in  a  given 
society  are  influenced  in  every  detail  by  the  way  in  which 
the  sexes  face  one  another  in  public  and  in  private,  by 
their  position  in  tribal  law  and  custom,  by  the  manner 
in  which  they  participate  in  games,  and  amusements,  by 
the  share  each  takes  in  ordinary  daily  toil. 

The  story  of  a  people's  love-making  necessarily  has 
to  begin  with  an  account  of  youthful  and  infantile  asso- 
ciations, and  it  leads  inevitably  forward  to  the  later  stage 
of  permanent  union  and  marriage.  Nor  can  the  narra- 
tive break  oflF  at  this  point,  since  science  cannot  claim  the 
privilege  of  fiction.  The  way  in  which  men  and  women 
arrange  their  common  life  and  that  of  their  children 
reacts  upon  their  love-making,  and  the  one  stage  cannot 
be  properly  understood  without  a  knowledge  of  the  other. 

This  book  deals  with  sexual  relations  among  the  na- 
tives of  the  Trobriand  Islands,  a  coral  archipelago  lying 
to  the  north-east  of  New  Guinea.  These  natives  belong 
to  the  Papuo-Melanesian  race,  and  in  their  physical  ap- 
pearance, mental  equipment,  and  social  organization  com- 
bine a  majority  of  Oceanic  characteristics  with  certain 
features  of  the  more  backward  Papuan  population  from 
the  mainland  of  New  Guinea.^ 

1  For  a  full  general   account  of  the  Northern  Massim,  of  whom  the 




We  find  in  the  Trobriands  a  matrilineal  society,  in 
which  descent,  kinship,  and  every  social  relationship  are 
legally  reckoned  through  the  mother  only,  and  in  which 
women  have  a  considerable  share  in  tribal  life,  even  to 
the  taking  of  a  leading  part  in  economic,  ceremonial,  and 
magical  activities — a  fact  which  very  deeply  influences 
all  the  customs  of  erotic  life  as  well  as  the  institution  of 
marriage.  It  will  be  well,  therefore,  first  to  consider 
the  sexual  relation  in  its  widest  aspect,  beginning  with 
some  account  of  those  features  of  custom  and  tribal  law 
which  underlie  the  institution  of  mother-right,  and  the 
various  views  and  conceptions  which  throw  light  upon  it  j 
after  this,  a  short  sketch  of  each  of  the  chief  domains  of 
tribal  life — domestic,  economic,  legal,  ceremonial,  and 
magical — ^will  combine  to  show  the  respective  spheres  of 
male  and  female  activity  among  these  natives. 

The  idea  that  it  is  solely  and  exclusively  the  mother 
who  builds  up  the  child's  body,  the  man  in  no  way  con- 
tributing to  its  formation,  is  the  most  important  factor 
in  the  legal  system  of  the  Trobrianders.  Their  views 
on  the  process  of  procreation,  coupled  with  certain  myth- 
ological and  animistic  beliefs,  affirm,  without  doubt  or  re- 

Trobrianders  form  a  section,  cf.  the  classical  treatise  of  Professor  C.  G. 
Seligman,  Melanesians  of  British  Neiv  Guinea,  Cambridge,  1910,  which 
also  shows  the  relation  of  the  Trobrianders  to  the  other  races  and  cultures 
on  and  around  New  Guinea.  A  short  account  of  Trobriand  culture  will 
also  be  found  in  my  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific  (E.  P.  Dutton  and 
Co.,  1923). 


serve,  that  the  child  is  of  the  same  substance  as  its  mother, 
and  that  between  the  father  and  the  child  there  is  no  bond 
of  physical  union  whatsoever  (see  ch.  vii). 

That  the  mother  contributes  everything  to  the  new 
being  to  be  born  of  her  is  taken  for  granted  by  the  natives, 
and  forcibly  expressed  by  them.  "The  mother  feeds  the 
infant  in  her  body.  Then,  when  it  comes  out,  she  feeds 
it  with  her  milk."  "The  mother  makes  the  child  out  of 
her  blood."  "Brothers  and  sisters  are  of  the  same  flesh, 
because  they  come  of  the  same  mother."  These  and 
similar  expressions  describe  their  attitude  towards  this, 
their  fundamental  principle  of  kinship. 

This  attitude  is  also  to  be  found  embodied,  in  an  even 
more  telling  manner,  in  the  rules  governing  descent,  in- 
heritance, succession  in  rank,  chieftainship,  hereditary 
offices,  and  magic — in  every  regulation,  in  fact,  concerning 
transmission  by  kinship.  Social  position  is  handed  on  in 
the  mother-line  from  a  man  to  his  sister's  children,  and 
this  exclusively  matrilineal  conception  of  kinship  is  of 
paramount  importance  in  the  restrictions  and  regulations 
of  marriage,  and  in  the  taboos  on  sexual  intercourse.  The 
working  of  these  ideas  of  kinship  can  be  observed,  break- 
ing out  with  a  dramatic  intensity,  at  death.  For  the  social 
rules  underlying  burial,  lamentation,  and  mourning,  to- 
gether with  certain  very  elaborate  ceremonies  of  food  dis- 
tribution, are  based  on  the  principle  that  people  joined 
by  the  tie  of  maternal  kinship  form  a  closely  knit  group, 
bound  by  an  identity  of  feelings,  of  interests,  and  of  flesh. 
And  from  this  group,  even  those  united  to  it  by  marriage 
and  by  the  father-to-child  relation  are  sharply  excluded, 



as  having  no  natural  share  in  the  bereavement  (see  ch.  vi, 
sees.  2-4). 

These  natives  have  a  well-established  institution  of 
marriage,  and  yet  are  quite  ignorant  of  the  man's  share 
in  the  begetting  of  children.  At  the  same  time,  the  term 
"father"  has,  for  the  Trobriander,  a  clear,  though  ex- 
clusively social,  definition:  it  signifies  the  man  married 
to  the  mother,  who  lives  in  the  same  house  with  her,  and 
forms  part  of  the  household.  The  father,  in  all  discus- 
sions about  relationship,  was  pointedly  described  to  me  as 
tomakavay  a  "stranger,"  or,  even  more  correctly,  an  "out- 
sider." This  expression  would  also  frequently  be  used  by 
natives  in  conversation,  when  they  were  arguing  some 
point  of  inheritance  or  trying  to  justify  some  line  of  be- 
haviour, or  again  when  the  position  of  the  father  was  to 
be  belittled  in  some  quarrel. 

It  will  be  clear  to  the  reader,  therefore,  that  the  term 
"father,"  as  I  use  it  here,  must  be  taken,  not  as  having 
the  various  legal,  moral,  and  biological  implications  that 
it  holds  for  us,  but  in  a  sense  entirely  specific  to  the  soci- 
ety with  which  we  are  dealing.  It  might  seem  better, 
in  order  to  avoid  any  chance  of  such  misconception,  not 
to  have  used  our  word  "father"  at  all,  but  rather  the 
native  one  tamUy  and  to  have  spoken  of  the  ^Hama  relation- 
ship" instead  of  "fatherhood"  j  but,  in  practice,  this  would 
have  proved  too  unwieldy.  The  reader,  therefore,  when 
he  meets  the  word  "father"  in  these  pages,  should  never 
forget  that  it  must  be  defined,  not  as  in  the  English  dic- 
tionary, but  in  accordance  with  the  facts  of  native  life. 
I  may  add  that  this  rule  applies  to  all  terms  which  carry 



special  sociological  implication,  that  is  to  all  terms  of 
relationship,  and  such  words  as  "marriage,"  "divorce," 
"betrothal,"  "love,"  "courtship,"  and  the  like. 

What  does  the  word  tama  (father)  express  to  the 
native?  "Husband  of  my  mother"  would  be  the  answer 
first  given  by  an  intelligent  informant.  He  would  go  on 
to  say  that  his  tama  is  the  man  in  whose  loving  and  pro- 
tecting company  he  has  grown  up.  For,  since  marriage 
is  patrilocal  in  the  Trobriands,  since  the  woman,  that  is 
to  say,  moves  to  her  husband's  village  community  and 
lives  in  his  house,  the  father  is  a  close  companion  to  his 
children  5  he  takes  an  active  part  in  the  cares  which  are 
lavished  upon  them,  invariably  feels  and  shows  a  deep 
affection  for  them,  and  later  has  a  share  in  their  education. 
The  word  tama  (father)  condenses,  therefore,  in  its  emo- 
tional meaning,  a  host  of  experiences  of  early  childhood, 
and  expresses  the  typical  sentiment  existing  between  a 
boy  or  girl  and  a  mature  affectionate  man  of  the  same 
household  3  while  socially  it  denotes  the  male  person  who 
stands  in  an  intimate  relation  to  the  mother,  and  who  is 
master  of  the  household. 

So  far  tama  does  not  differ  essentially  from  "father" 
in  our  sense.  But  as  soon  as  the  child  begins  to  grow  up 
and  take  an  interest  in  things  outside  the  affairs  of  the 
household  and  its  own  immediate  needs,  certain  complica- 
tions arise,  and  change  the  meaning  of  tama  for  him.  He 
learns  that  he  is  not  of  the  same  clan  as  his  tama^  that  his 
totemic  appellation  is  different,  and  that  it  is  identical 
with  that  of  his  mother.    At  the  same  time  he  learns  that 



all  sorts  of  duties,  restrictions,  and  concerns  for  personal 
pride  unite  him  to  his  mother  and  separate  him  from  his 
father.  Another  man  appears  on  the  horizon,  and  is 
called  by  the  child  kadagu  ("my  mother's  brother"). 
This  man  may  live  in  the  same  locality,  but  he  is  just  as 
likely  to  reside  in  another  village.  The  child  also  learns 
that  the  place  where  his  kada  (mother's  brother)  resides 
is  also  his,  the  child's,  "own  village"  5  that  there  he  has 
his  property  and  his  other  rights  of  citizenship  j  that  there 
his  future  career  awaits  himj  that  there  his  natural  allies 
and  associates  are  to  be  found.  He  may  even  be  taunted 
in  the  village  of  his  birth  with  being  an  "outsider"  {toma- 
kava)y  while  in  the  village  he  has  to  call  "his  own,"  in 
which  his  mother's  brother  lives,  his  father  is  a  stranger 
and  he  a  natural  citizen.  He  also  sees,  as  he  grows  up, 
that  the  mother's  brother  assumes  a  gradually  increasing 
authority  over  him,  requiring  his  services,  helping  him  in 
some  things,  granting  or  withholding  his  permission  to 
carry  out  certain  actions  j  while  the  father's  authority  and 
counsel  become  less  and  less  important. 

Thus  the  life  of  a  Trobriander  runs  under  a  two-fold 
influence — a  duality  which  must  not  be  imagined  as  a 
mere  surface  play  of  custom.  It  enters  deeply  into  the 
existence  of  every  individual,  it  produces  strange  compli- 
cations of  usage,  it  creates  frequent  tensions  and  diffi- 
culties, and  not  seldom  gives  rise  to  violent  breaks  in  the 
continuity  of  tribal  life.  For  this  dual  influence  of 
paternal  love  and  the  matrilineal  principle,  which  pene- 
trates so  far  into  the  framework  of  institutions  and  into 


the  social  ideas  and  sentiments  of  the  native,  is  not,  as  a 
matter  of  fact,  quite  well  adjusted  in  its  working/ 

It  has  been  necessary  to  emphasize  the  relationship  be- 
tween a  Trobriander  and  his  father,  his  mother,  and  his 
mother's  brother,  for  this  is  the  nucleus  of  the  complex 
system  of  mother-right  or  matriliny,  and  this  system  gov- 
erns the  whole  social  life  of  these  natives.  The  question 
is,  moreover,  specially  related  to  the  main  theme  of  this 
book:  love-making,  marriage,  and  kinship  are  three  aspects 
of  the  same  subject j  they  are  the  three  facets  which  it 
presents  in  turn  to  sociological  analysis. 


We  have  so  far  given  the  sociological  definition  of 
fatherhood,  of  the  mother's  brother's  relation,  and  of 
the  nature  of  the  bond  between  mother  and  child  j  a  bond 
founded  on  the  biological  facts  of  gestation  and  the  ex- 
tremely close  psychological  attachment  which  results  from 
these.  The  best  way  to  make  this  abstract  statement  clear 
will  be  to  display  the  inter-working  of  the  three  rela- 
tionships in  an  actual  community  in  the  Trobriands. 
Thus  we  can  make  our  explanations  concrete  and  get 
into  touch  with  actual  life  instead  of  moving  among  ab- 
stractions j  and,  incidentally,  too,  we  can  introduce  some 
personalities  who  will  appear  in  the  later  parts  of  our 

The  village  of  Omarakana  is,  in  a  sense,  the  capital 

^  Cf.  my  Crime  and  Custom  in  Salvage  Society,  Harcourt,  Brace,  1926. 



of  Kiriwina,  the  main  district  of  these  islands.  It  is  the 
residence  of  the  principal  chief,  whose  name,  prestige, 
and  renown  are  carried  far  and  wide  over  the  Archipela- 
goes, though  his  power  does  not  reach  beyond  the  prov- 
ince of  Kiriwina/  The  village  lies  on  a  fertile,  level 
plain  in  the  northern  part  of  the  large,  flat  coral  island 
of  Boyowa  (see  map).  As  we  walk  towards  it,  from  the 
lagoon  anchorages  on  the  western  shore,  the  level  road 
leads  across  monotonous  stretches  covered  with  low  scrub, 
here  and  there  broken  by  a  tabooed  grove,  or  by  a  large 
garden,  holding  vines  trained  on  long  poles  and  looking, 
in  its  developed  form,  like  an  exuberant  hop-yard.  We 
pass  several  villages  on  our  way  5  the  soil  becomes  more 
fertile  and  the  settlement  denser  as  we  approach  the  long 
ridge  of  raised  coral  outcrop  which  runs  along  the  eastern 
shore  and  shuts  oflF  the  open  sea  from  the  inland  plains 
of  the  island. 

A  large  clump  of  trees  appears  at  a  distance — ^these 
are  the  fruit-trees,  the  palms  and  the  piece  of  uncut  virgin 
jungle  which  together  surround  the  village  of  Omara- 
kana.  We  pass  the  grove  and  find  ourselves  between  two 
rows  of  houses,  built  in  concentric  rings  round  a  large 
open  space  (see  fig.  i  and  plate  i).  Between  the  outer 
ring  and  the  inner  one  a  circular  street  runs  round  the 
whole  of  the  village,  and  in  it,  as  we  pass,  we  see  groups 
of  people  sitting  in  front  of  their  huts  (see  pi.  4).  The 
outer  ring  consists  of  dwelling-houses,  the  inner  of  store- 

^  For  further  references  to  this  eminent  personage  and  for  an  account 
of  chieftainship,  see  C.  G.  Seligman,  op.  cit.,  chapters  xlix  and  li ;  also 
my  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  passim,  and  "Baloma,  Spirits  of 
the  Dead."  Journ.  R,  Anthrop.  Inst.^  1916. 


huts  in  which  the  taytu^  a  variety  of  yam,  which  forms 
the  staple  food  of  the  natives,  is  kept  from  one  harvest 
to  the  next.  We  are  struck  at  once  by  the  better  finish, 
the  greater  constructive  elaboration,  and  the  superior  em- 
bellishment and  decoration  which  distinguish  the  yam- 
houses  from  the  dwellings  (see  pi.  31).  As  we  stand  on 
the  wide  central  space  we  can  admire  the  circular  row  of 
storehouses  in  front  of  us,  for  both  these  and  the  dwell- 
ings always  face  the  centre.  In  Omarakana  a  big  yam- 
house  belonging  to  the  chief  stands  in  the  middle  of  this 
space.  Somewhat  nearer  the  ring,  but  still  well  in  the 
centre  stands  another  large  building,  the  chief's  living 
hut  (see  pis.  i  and  2). 

This  singularly  symmetrical  arrangement  of  the  village 
is  of  importance,  for  it  represents  a  definite  sociological 
scheme.  The  inner  place  is  the  scene  of  the  public  and 
festive  life.  A  part  of  it  is  the  old-time  burial  ground 
of  the  villagers,  and  at  one  end  is  the  dancing  ground, 
the  scene  of  all  ceremonial  and  festive  celebrations.  The 
houses  which  surround  it,  the  inner  ring  of  store-huts  that 
is,  share  its  quasi-sacred  character,  a  number  of  taboos 
being  placed  upon  them.  The  street  between  the  two 
rows  is  the  theatre  of  domestic  life  and  everyday  occur- 
rence (see  pis.  4  and  39).  Without  over-labouring  the 
point,  the  central  place  might  be  called  the  male  portion 
of  the  village  and  the  street  that  of  the  women. 

Let  us  now  make  preliminary  acquaintance  with  some 
of  the  more  important  inhabitants  of  Omarakana,  be- 
ginning with  the  present  chief,  To'uluwa  (see  pis.  2  and 
41).    Not  only  are  he  and  his  family  the  most  prominent 



members  of  the  community^  but  they  occupy  more  than 
half  of  the  village.  As  we  shall  see  (ch.  v,  sec.  4),  the 
chiefs  in  the  Trobriands  have  the  privilege  of  polygamy. 
To'uluwa,  who  lives  in  the  large  house  in  the  middle  of 
the  village,  has  a  number  of  wives  who  occupy  a  whole 
row  of  huts  (A — B  on  the  plan,  fig.  i).  Also  his  maternal 
kinsmen,  who  belong  to  his  family  and  sub-clan  called 
Tabalu,  have  a  separate  space  in  the  village  for  them- 
selves (A — C).  The  third  section  (B — C)  is  inhabited 
by  commoners  who  are  not  related  to  the  chief  either  as 
kinsmen  or  as  children. 

The  community  is  thus  divided  into  three  parts.  The 
first  consists  of  the  chief  and  his  maternal  kinsmen,  the 
Tabalu,  all  of  whom  claim  the  village  as  their  own,  and 
consider  themselves  masters  of  its  soil  with  all  attendant 
privileges.  The  second  consists  of  the  commoners,  who 
are  themselves  divided  into  two  groups:  those  claiming 
the  rights  of  citizenship  on  mythological  grounds  (these 
rights  are  distinctly  inferior  to  those  of  the  chief's  sub- 
clan,  and  the  claimants  remain  in  the  village  only  as  the 
chief's  vassals  or  servants)  3  and  strangers  in  the  heredi- 
tary service  of  the  chief,  who  live  in  the  village  by  that 
right  and  title.  The  third  part  consists  of  the  chief's 
wives  and  their  offspring. 

These  wives,  by  reason  of  patrilocal  marriage,  have 
to  settle  in  their  husband's  village,  and  with  them,  of 
course,  remain  their  younger  children.  But  the  grown-up 
sons  are  allowed  to  stay  in  the  village  only  through  the 
personal  influence  of  their  father.  This  influence  over- 
rules the  tribal  law  that  every  man  ought  to  live  in  his 



own — that  is  his  mother's — ^village.  The  chief  is  always 
much  more  attached  to  his  children  than  to  his  maternal 
kinsmen.  He  prefers  their  company  j  like  every  typical 
Trobriand  father,  he  takes,  sentimentally  at  least,  their 
side  in  any  dispute  j  and  he  invariably  tries  to  grant  them 
as  many  privileges  and  benefits  as  possible.  This  state  of 
affairs  is  naturally  not  altogether  appreciated  by  the 
chief's  legal  successors,  his  maternal  kinsmen,  the  children 
of  his  sister  5  and  frequently  considerable  tension  and 
sharp  friction  arise  between  the  two  sections  in  conse- 

Such  a  state  of  tension  revealed  itself  recently  in  an 
acute  upheaval,  which  shook  the  quiet  tribal  life  of 
Omarakana  and  for  years  undermined  its  internal  har- 
mony.^ There  was  a  feud  of  long  standing  between 
Namwana  Guya'u,  the  chief's  favourite  son,  and  Mitakata, 
his  nephew  and  third  in  succession  to  the  rule  (see  pi.  3). 
Namwana  Guya'u  was  the  most  influential  man  in  the 
village,  after  the  chief,  his  father:  To'uluwa  allowed  him 
to  wield  a  great  deal  of  power,  and  gave  him  more  than 
his  share  of  wealth  and  privilege. 

One  day,  about  six  months  after  my  arrival  in  Omara- 
kana, the  quarrel  came  acutely  to  a  head.  Namwana 
Guya'u,  the  chief's  son,  accused  his  enemy,  Mitakata,  the 
nephew  and  one  of  the  heirs,  of  committing  adultery 
with  his  wife,  brought  him  before  the  White  Resident 
Magistrate,  and  thereby  caused  him  to  be  imprisoned  for 

1  The  following  account  has  been  already  published  (in  Crime  and 
Custom,  pp.  loi  sq.).  Since  it  is  an  almost  exact  reproduction  of  the 
original  entry  in  my  field-notes,  I  prefer  to  give  it  here  once  more  in  the 
same  form,  with  a  few  verbal  alterations  only. 



a  month  or  so.  The  news  of  this  imprisonment  reached 
the  village  from  the  Government  compound,  a  few  miles 
distant,  at  sunset,  and  created  a  panic.  The  chief  shut 
himself  up  in  his  personal  hut,  full  of  evil  forebodings 
for  his  favourite,  who  had  thus  rashly  outraged  tribal 
law  and  feeling.  The  kinsmen  of  the  imprisoned  heir 
to  chieftainship  were  boiling  with  suppressed  anger  and 
indignation.  As  night  fell,  the  subdued  villagers  settled 
down  to  a  silent  supper,  each  family  over  its  solitary 
meal.  There  was  nobody  on  the  central  place.  Nam- 
wana  Guya'u  was  not  to  be  seen,  the  chief  To'uluwa  re- 
mained secluded  in  his  hut,  most  of  his  wives  and  their 
children  staying  indoors  also.  Suddenly  a  loud  voice 
rang  out  across  the  silent  village.  Bagido'u,  the  heir 
apparent  and  eldest  brother  of  the  imprisoned  man,  stand- 
ing before  his  hut,  cried  out,  addressing  the  offender  of 
his  family: 

"Namwana  Guya'u,  you  are  a  cause  of  trouble.  We, 
the  Tabalu  of  Omarakana,  allowed  you  to  stay  here,  to 
live  among  us.  You  had  plenty  of  food  in  Omarakana. 
You  ate  of  our  food.  You  partook  of  the  pigs  brought 
to  us  as  a  tribute,  and  of  the  flesh.  You  sailed  in  our 
canoe.  You  built  a  hut  on  our  soil.  Now  you  have  done 
us  harm.  You  have  told  lies.  Mitakata  is  in  prison.  We 
do  not  want  you  to  stay  here.  This  is  our  village!  You 
are  a  stranger  here.  Go  away!  We  drive  you  away! 
We  drive  you  out  of  Omarakana." 

These  words  were  uttered  in  a  loud,  piercing  voice, 
which  trembled  with  strong  emotion:  each  short  sentence 
was  spoken  after  a  pause  j  each,  like  an  individual  missile, 



was  hurled  across  the  empty  space  to  the  hut  where 
Namwana  Guya'u  sat  brooding.  Next,  the  younger  sister 
of  Mitakata  rose  and  spoke,  and  then  a  young  man,  one 
of  their  maternal  nephews.  Their  words  were  in  each 
case  almost  the  same  as  Bagido'u's,  the  burden  being  the 
formula  of  dismissal  or  driving  away,  the  yoha.  These 
speeches  were  received  in  deep  silence.  Nothing  stirred 
in  the  village.  But,  before  the  night  was  over,  Namwana 
Guya'u  had  left  Omarakana  for  ever.  He  had  gone  over 
and  settled  a  few  miles  away,  in  Osapola,  his  "own"  vil- 
lage, whence  his  mother  came.  For  weeks  she  and  his 
sister  wailed  for  him  with  loud  lamentations  as  for  the 
dead.  The  chief  remained  for  three  days  in  his  hut,  and 
when  he  came  out  he  looked  aged  and  broken  by  grief. 
All  his  personal  interest  and  affection  were  on  the  side 
of  his  favourite  son,  yet  he  could  do  nothing  to  help  him. 
His  kinsmen  had  acted  strictly  within  their  rights,  and, 
according  to  tribal  law,  he  could  not  possibly  dissociate 
himself  from  them.  No  power  could  change  the  decree 
of  exile.  Once  the  words  "Go  away" — huhula^  "we  drive 
thee  away" — kayabaimy  had  been  pronounced,  the  man 
had  to  go.  These  words,  very  rarely  uttered  in  earnest, 
have  a  binding  force  and  an  almost  ritual  power  when 
pronounced  by  citizens  against  a  resident  outsider.  A 
man  who  would  try  to  brave  the  dreadful  insult  involved 
in  them  and  remain  in  spite  of  them,  would  be  dis- 
honoured for  ever.  In  fact,  anything  but  immediate 
compliance  with  a  ritual  request  is  unthinkable  for  a  Tro- 
briand  Islander. 

The  chief's  resentment  against  his  kinsmen  was  deep 



and  lasting.  At  first  he  would  not  even  speak  to  them.' 
For  a  year  or  so,  not  one  of  them  dared  to  ask  to  be  taken 
on  overseas  expeditions  by  him,  although  they  were  fully 
entitled  to  this  privilege.  Two  years  later,  in  191 7,  when 
I  returned  to  the  Trobriands,  Namwana  Guya'u  was  still 
resident  in  the  other  village  and  keeping  aloof  from  his 
father's  kinsmen,  though  he  frequently  visited  Omarakana 
in  order  to  be  in  attendance  on  his  father,  especially  when 
To'uluwa  went  abroad.  His  mother  had  died  within  a 
year  after  his  expulsion.  As  the  natives  described  it: 
"She  wailed  and  wailed,  refused  to  eat,  and  died."  The 
relations  between  the  two  main  enemies  were  completely 
broken,  and  Mitakata,  the  young  chieftain  who  had  been 
imprisoned,  had  repudiated  his  wife,  who  belonged  to  the 
same  sub-clan  as  Namwana  Guya'u.  There  was  a  deep 
rift  in  the  whole  social  life  of  Kiriwina. 

This  incident  was  one  of  the  most  dramatic  which  I 
have  ever  witnessed  in  the  Trobriands.  I  have  described 
it  at  length,  as  it  contains  a  striking  illustration  of  the 
nature  of  mother-right,  of  the  power  of  tribal  law,  and 
of  the  passions  which  work  against  and  in  spite  of  these. 
It  shows  also  the  deep,  personal  attachment  which  a  father 
feels  for  his  children,  the  tendency  which  he  has  to  use 
all  his  personal  influence  to  give  them  a  strong  position 
in  the  village,  the  opposition  which  this  always  evokes 
among  his  maternal  kinsmen,  and  the  tension  and  rifts 
thus  brought  about.  Under  normal  conditions,  in  a 
smaller  community  where  the  contending  powers  are 
humbler  and  less  important,  such  tension  would  merely 
mean  that,  after  the  father's  death,  the  children  would 



have  to  return  to  his  maternal  kinsmen  practically  all  the: 
material  benefits  they  had  received  from  him  during  his 
lifetime.  In  any  case,  a  good  deal  of  discontent  and 
friction  and  many  roundabout  methods  of  settlement  are 
involved  in  this  dual  play  of  paternal  affection  and  matri- 
lineal  authority:  the  chief's  son  and  his  maternal  nephew 
can  be  described  as  predestined  enemies. 

This  theme  will  recur  in  the  progress  of  the  following 
narrative.  In  discussing  consent  to  marriage,  we  shall 
see  the  importance  of  paternal  authority  and  the  functions 
of  the  matrilineal  kinsmen.  The  custom  of  cross-cousin 
marriage  is  a  traditional  reconciliation  of  the  two  oppos- 
ing principles.  The  sexual  taboos  and  prohibitions  of 
incest  also  cannot  be  understood  without  a  clear  grasp  of 
the  principles  discussed  in  this  section. 

So  far  we  have  met  To'uluwa,  his  favourite  wife 
Kadamwasila,  whose  death  followed  on  the  village 
tragedy,  their  son  Namwana  Guya'u,  and  his  enemy 
Mitakata,  son  of  the  chief's  sister,  and  these  we  shall 
meet  again,  for  they  were  among  my  best  informants. 
We  shall  also  become  acquainted  with  the  other  sons  of 
the  chief,  and  of  his  favourite  wife,  and  with  some  of  his 
maternal  kinsmen  and  kinswomen.  We  shall  follow  sev- 
eral of  them  in  their  love  affairs,  and  in  their  marriage 
arrangements  j  we  shall  have  to  pry  into  their  domestic 
scandals,  and  to  take  an  indiscreet  interest  in  their  intimate 
life.  For  all  of  them  were,  during  a  long  period,  under 
ethnographic  observation,  and  I  obtained  much  of  my 
material  through  their  confidences,  and  especially  from 
their  mutual  scandal-mongering. 



Many  examples  will  also  be  given  from  other  com- 
munities, and  we  shall  make  frequent  visits  to  the  lagoon 
villages  of  the  western  shore,  to  places  on  the  south  of 
the  island,  and  to  some  of  the  neighbouring  smaller  islands 
of  the  Archipelago.  In  all  these  other  communities  more 
uniform  and  democratic  conditions  prevail,  and  this  makes 
some  difference  in  the  character  of  their  sexual  life. 


In  entering  the  village  we  had  to  pass  across  the  street 
between  the  two  concentric  rows  of  houses/  This  is  the 
normal  setting  of  the  everyday  life  of  the  community,  and 
thither  we  must  return  in  order  to  make  a  closer  survey 
of  the  groups  of  people  sitting  in  front  of  their  dwellings 
(see  pi.  4).  As  a  rule  we  find  that  each  group  consists 
of  one  family  only — ^man,  wife,  and  children — taking 
their  leisure,  or  engaged  in  some  domestic  activity  which 
varies  with  the  time  of  day.  On  a  fine  morning  we  would 
see  them  hastily  eating  a  scanty  breakfast,  and  then  the 
man  and  woman  preparing  the  implements  for  the  day's 
work,  with  the  help  of  the  bigger  children,  while  the 
baby  is  laid  out  of  the  way  on  a  mat.  Afterwards,  during 
the  cool  hours  of  the  forenoon,  each  family  would  prob- 
ably set  off  to  their  work,  leaving  the  village  almost 
deserted.  The  man,  in  company  with  others,  may  be 
fishing  or  hunting  or  building  a  canoe  or  looking  for 

1  A  good  glimpse  of  the  "street,"  can  be  obtained  on  pi.  12,  where  two 
dwelling  huts,  right  and  left,  can  be  seen  behind  the  two  yam  houses  in 
the  middle. 



timber.  The  woman  may  have  gone  collecting  shell-fish 
or  wild  fruits.  Or  else  both  may  be  working  in  the 
gardens,  or  paying  a  visit.  The  man  often  does  harder 
work  than  the  woman,  but  when  they  return  in  the  hot 
hours  of  the  afternoon  he  will  rest,  while  the  woman 
busies  herself  with  household  aflFairs.  Towards  evening, 
when  the  descending  sun  casts  longer,  cooler  shadows,  the 
social  life  of  the  village  begins.  At  this  time  we  would 
see  our  family  group  in  front  of  their  hut,  the  wife 
preparing  food,  the  children  playing,  the  husband,  per- 
haps, seated  amusing  the  smallest  baby.  This  is  the  time 
when  neighbours  call  on  one  another,  and  conversation 
may  be  exchanged  from  group  to  group. 

The  frank  and  friendly  tone  of  intercourse,  the  obvious 
feeling  of  equality,  the  father's  domestic  helpfulness, 
especially  with  the  children,  would  at  once  strike  any 
observant  visitor.  The  wife  joins  freely  in  the  jokes 
and  conversation  5  she  does  her  work  independently,  not 
with  the  air  of  a  slave  or  a  servant,  but  as  one  who  man- 
ages her  own  department.  She  will  order  the  husband 
about  if  she  needs  his  help.  Close  observation,  day  after 
day,  confirms  this  first  impression.  The  typical  Trobriand 
household  is  founded  on  the  principles  of  equality  and 
independence  of  function:  the  man  is  considered  to  be 
the  master,  for  he  is  in  his  own  village  and  the  house 
belongs  to  him,  but  the  woman  has,  in  other  respects,  a 
considerable  influence  5  she  and  her  family  have  a  great 
deal  to  do  with  the  food  supply  of  the  household^  she  is 
the  owner  of  separate  possessions  in  the  house  5  and  she 
is — ^next  to  her  brother — ^the  legal  head  of  her  family. 



The  division  of  functions  within  the  household  is,  in 
certain  matters,  quite  definite.  The  woman  has  to  cook 
the  food,  which  is  simple,  and  does  not  require  much 
preparation.  The  main  meal  is  taken  at  sunset,  and  con- 
sists of  yams,  taro,  or  other  tubers,  roasted  in  the  open 
fire — or,  less  frequently,  boiled  in  a  small  pot,  or  baked 
in  the  ground — ^with  the  occasional  addition  of  fish  or 
meat.  Next  morning  the  remains  are  eaten  cold,  and 
sometimes,  though  not  regularly,  fruit,  shell-fish,  or  some 
other  light  snack  may  be  taken  at  mid-day. 

In  some  circumstances,  men  can  and  do  prepare  and 
cook  the  food:  on  journeys,  oversea  voyages,  fishing  or 
hunting  expeditions,  when  they  are  without  their  women 
folk.  Also,  on  certain  occasions,  when  taro  or  sago 
dumplings  are  cooked  in  the  large  clay  pots,  men  are 
required  by  tradition  to  assist  their  wives  (pi.  5).  But 
within  the  village  and  in  normal  daily  life  the  man  never 
cooks.  It  would  be  considered  shameful  for  him  to  do  so. 
"You  are  a  he-cook  {tokakabwasi  yoku)  would  be  said 
tauntingly.  The  fear  of  deserving  such  an  epithet,  of 
being  laughed  at  or  shamed  {kakayuwa)^  is  extreme.  It 
arises  from  the  characteristic  dread  and  shame,  found 
among  savages,  of  not  doing  the  proper  thing,  or,  worse 
still,  of  doing  something  which  is  intrinsically  the  attribute 
of  another  sex  or  social  class  (see  ch.  xiii,  sees.  1-4). 

There  are  a  number  of  occupations  strictly  assigned  by 
tribal  custom  to  one  sex  only.  The  manner  of  carrying 
loads  is  a  very  noteworthy  example.  Women  have  to 
carry  the  special  feminine  receptacle,  the  bell-shaped 
basket,  or  any  other  kind  of  load  upon  their  heads  5  men 



must  carry  only  on  the  shoulder  (pis.  6,  7,  and  28).  It 
would  be  with  a  real  shudder,  and  a  profound  feeling  of 
shame,  that  an  individual  would  regard  carrying  anything 
in  the  manner  proper  to  the  opposite  sex  and  nothing 
would  induce  a  man  to  put  any  load  on  his  head,  even 
in  fun. 

An  exclusively  feminine  department  is  the  water 
supply.  The  woman  has  the  water  bottles  of  the  house- 
hold in  her  charge.  These  are  made  out  of  the  woody 
shell  of  a  mature  coconut,  with  a  stopper  of  twisted  palm- 
leaf.  In  the  morning  or  near  sunset  she  goes,  sometimes 
a  full  half-mile,  to  fill  them  at  the  water-hole:  here  the 
women  forgather,  resting  and  chatting,  while  one  after 
another  fills  her  water-vessels,  cleans  them,  arranges 
them  in  baskets  or  on  large  wooden  platters,  and,  just 
before  leaving,  gives  the  cluster  a  final  sprinkling  of  water 
to  cover  it  with  a  suggestive  gloss  of  freshness.  The 
water-hole  is  the  woman's  club  and  centre  of  gossip,  and 
as  such  is  important,  for  there  is  a  distinct  woman's  public 
opinion  and  point  of  view  in  a  Trobriand  village,  and  they 
have  their  secrets  from  the  male,  just  as  the  male  has 
from  the  female. 

We  have  already  seen  that  the  husband  fully  shares 
in  the  care  of  the  children.  He  will  fondle  and  carry 
a  baby,  clean  and  wash  it,  and  give  it  the  mashed  vege- 
table food  which  it  receives  in  addition  to  the  mother's 
milk  almost  from  birth.  In  fact,  nursing  the  baby  in  the 
arms  or  holding  it  on  the  knees,  which  is  described  by  the 
native  word  kofo^y  is  the  special  role  and  duty  of  the 
father  {tamo).     It  is  said  of  the  children  of  unmarried 



women  who,  according  to  the  native  expression,  are  "with- 
out a  tama*^  (that  is,  it  must  be  remembered,  without  a 
husband  to  their  mother),  that  they  are  "unfortunate"  or 
"bad"  because  "there  is  no  one  to  nurse  and  hug  them 
{gala  lay  tola  bikofoH)?^  Again,  if  anyone  inquires  why 
children  should  have  duties  towards  their  father,  who  is 
a  "stranger"  to  them,  the  answer  is  invariably:  "because  of 
the  nursing  {fela  kofo^t)^'^  "because  his  hands  have  been 
soiled  with  the  child's  excrement  and  urine"  (cf.  ch.  vii). 

The  father  performs  his  duties  with  genuine  natural 
fondness :  he  will  carry  an  infant  about  for  hours,  looking 
at  it  with  eyes  full  of  such  love  and  pride  as  are  seldom 
seen  in  those  of  a  European  father.  Any  praise  of  the 
baby  goes  directly  to  his  heart,  and  he  will  never  tire  of 
talking  about  and  exhibiting  the  virtues  and  achievements 
of  his  wife's  offspring.  Indeed,  watching  a  native  family 
at  home  or  meeting  them  on  the  road,  one  receives  a 
strong  impression  of  close  union  and  intimacy  between  its 
members  (see  pis.  7,  26).  Nor,  as  we  have  seen,  does  this 
mutual  affection  abate  in  later  years.  Thus,  in  the  in- 
timacy of  domestic  life,  we  discover  another  aspect  of  the 
interesting  and  complicated  struggle  between  social  and 
emotional  paternity,  on  the  one  hand,  and  the  explicitly 
acknowledged  legal  mother-right  on  the  other. 

It  will  be  noticed  that  we  have  not  yet  penetrated  into 
the  interior  of  a  house,  for  in  fine  weather  the  scene  of 
family  life  is  always  laid  in  front  of  the  dwelling.  Only 
when  it  is  cold  and  raining,  at  night,  or  for  intimate  uses, 
do  the  natives  retire  into  the  interior.  On  a  wet  or  windy 
evening  in  the  cooler  season  we  should  find  the  village 



streets  deserted,  dim  lights  flickering  through  small  inter- 
stices in  the  hut  walls,  and  voices  sounding  from  within  in 
animated  conversation.  Inside,  in  a  small  space  heavy 
with  dense  smoke  and  human  exhalation,  the  people  sit  on 
the  floor  round  the  fire  or  recline  on  bedsteads  covered 
with  mats. 

The  houses  are  built  directly  on  the  ground  and  their 
floors  are  of  beaten  earth.  On  the  adjoining  diagrammatic 
plan  (fig.  ii)  we  see  the  main  items  of  their  very  simple 
furniture:  the  fireplace,  which  is  simply  a  ring  of  small 
stones  with  three  large  ones  to  support  a  potj  wooden 
sleeping  bunks,  placed  one  over  another  against  the 
back  and  side  walls  opposite  the  fireplace  (cf.  pi.  8)  and 
one  or  two  shelves  for  nets,  cooking  pots,  women's  grass 
petticoats,  and  other  household  objects.  The  chief's  per- 
sonal dwelling  is  built  like  an  ordinary  house,  but  is 
larger.  The  yam  houses  are  of  somewhat  different  and 
more  complicated  construction,  and  are  slightly  raised 
above  the  ground. 

A  normal  day  in  a  typical  household  forces  the  family 
to  live  in  close  intimacy — they  sleep  in  the  same  hut,  they 
eat  in  common  and  spend  the  best  part  both  of  their 
working  and  of  their  leisure  hours  together. 


TO    SEX 

Members  of  the  household  are  also  bound  together  by 
community  of  economic  interest.     On  this  point,  how- 


riGURE  11 




( 1 ^ 



-f %  • 



ich.  h  i\ 


ever,  a  more  detailed  statement  is  necessary,  as  the  sub- 
ject is  important  and  complicated.  To  begin  with  the 
right  of  ownership,  it  must  be  realized  that  personal  pos- 
session is  a  matter  of  great  importance  to  the  native.  The 
title  toU-  ("owner"  or  "master,"  used  as  a  prefix  to  the 
objea  possessed)  has  a  considerable  value  in  itself  as  con- 
ferring a  sort  of  distinction,  even  when  it  does  not  give 
a  claim  to  rights  of  exclusive  use.  This  term  and  the  con- 
ception of  ownership  are,  in  every  particular  case,  very 
well  defined,  but  the  relationship  varies  with  different 
objects,  and  it  is  impossible  to  summarize  it  in  one  for- 
mula covering  all  cases.^ 

It  is  remarkable  that  in  spite  of  the  close  union  within 
the  household,  domestic  utensils  and  the  many  objects  lit- 
tering the  hut  are  not  owned  in  common.  Husband  and 
wife  have  each  his  or  her  own  possessions.  The  wife 
owns  her  grass  petticoats,  of  which  there  are  usually 
some  twelve  to  twenty  in  her  wardrobe,  for  use  on  various 
occasions.  Also  she  relies  on  her  own  skill  and  industry 
to  procure  them.  So  that  in  the  question  of  toilet,  a  Kir- 
winian  lady  depends  solely  upon  herself.  The  water  ves- 
sels, the  implements  for  dressmaking,  a  number  of  articles 
of  personal  adornment,  are  also  her  own  property.  The 
man  owns  his  tools,  the  axe  and  adze,  the  nets,  the  spears, 
the  dancing  ornaments,  and  the  drum,  and  also  those 
objects  of  high  value,  called  by  the  natives  vaygu^a,  which 
consist  of  necklaces,  belts,  armshells,  and  large  polished 

Nor  is  private  ownership  in  this  case  a  mere  word 

^  Cf.  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  ch.  vi,  and  passim. 



without  practical  significance.  The  husband  and  the  wife 
can  and  do  dispose  of  any  article  of  their  own  property, 
and  after  the  death  of  one  of  them  the  objects  are  not 
inherited  by  the  partner,  but  distributed  among  a  special 
class  of  heirs.  When  there  is  a  domestic  quarrel  a  man 
may  destroy  some  of  his  wife's  property — he  may  wreak 
his  vengeance  on  the  water  bottles  or  on  the  grass  petti- 
coats— and  she  may  smash  his  drum  or  break  his  dancing 
shield.  A  man  also  has  to  repair  and  keep  his  own  things 
in  order,  so  that  the  woman  is  not  the  housekeeper  in  the 
general  European  sense. 

Immovable  goods,  such  as  garden-land,  trees,  houses, 
as  well  as  sailing-vessels,  are  owned  almost  exclusively  by 
men,  as  is  also  the  live  stock,  which  consists  mainly  of  pigs. 
We  shall  have  to  touch  on  this  subject  again,  when  we 
speak  of  the  social  position  of  women,  for  ownership  of 
such  things  goes  with  power. 

Passing  now  from  economic  rights  to  duties,  let  us 
consider  the  partition  of  work  according  to  sex.  In  the 
heavier  type  of  labour,  such  as  gardening,  fishing,  and 
carrying  of  considerable  loads,  there  is  a  definite  division 
between  man  and  woman.  Fishing  and  hunting,  the  latter 
of  very  slight  importance  in  the  Trobriands,  are  done  by 
men,  while  only  women  engage  in  the  search  for  marine 
shell-fish.  In  gardening,  the  heaviest  work,  such  as  cut- 
ting the  scrub,  making  fences,  fetching  the  heavy  yam 
supports,  and  planting  the  tubers,  is  done  exclusively  by 
men.  Weeding  is  the  women's  special  duty,  while  some 
of  the  intermediate  stages,  in  which  the  plants  have  to  be 
looked  after,  are  performed  by  mixed  male  and  female 



labour.  Men  do  such  tending  as  there  is  to  be  done  of  the 
COCO'-  and  areca-nut  palms  and  o£  the  fruit-trees,  while 
it  is  chiefly  the  women  who  look  after  the  pigs. 

All  oversea  expeditions  are  made  by  men,  and  the 
building  of  canoes  is  entirely  their  business.  Men  have  to 
do  most  of  the  trading,  especially  the  important  exchange 
of  vegetable  food  for  fish  which  takes  place  between  the 
inland  and  coastal  villagers.  In  the  building  of  houses, 
the  framework  is  made  by  men,  and  the  women  help  with 
the  thatching.  Both  sexes  share  in  the  carrying  of  bur- 
dens^ the  men  shoulder  the  heavier  ones,  while  the  women 
make  up  by  carrying  more  frequently.  And,  as  we  have 
seen,  there  is  a  characteristic  sexual  distinction  in  the  mode 
of  placing  the  burden. 

As  regards  the  minor  work  of  manufacturing  small 
objects,  the  women  have  to  make  the  mats  and  plait  the 
armlets  and  belts.  Of  course,  they  alone  fashion  their 
personal  dress,  just  as  men  have  to  tailor  their  own  not 
very  extensive  but  very  carefully  finished  garment,  the 
pubic  leaf.  Men  do  the  wood  carving,  even  in  the  case 
of  objects  used  exclusively  by  women j  they  manufacture 
lime  gourds  for  betel  chewing  and,  in  the  old  days,  they 
used  to  polish  and  sharpen  all  stone  implements. 

This  specialization  of  work  according  to  sex  gives,  at 
certain  seasons,  a  characteristic  and  picturesque  touch  to 
village  life.  When  harvest  approaches  new  skirts  of  the 
coloured  variety  have  to  be  made,  ready  to  wear  when  the 
crops  are  brought  in  and  at  the  subsequent  festivities. 
Quantities  of  banana  and  pandanus  leaf  are  brought  to 
the  villages,  and  are  there  bleached  and  toughened  at  the 
fire.    At  night  the  whole  village  is  bright  with  the  shining 



of  these  fires,  at  each  of  which  a  couple  of  women  sit 
opposite  each  other  and  pass  the  leaf  to  and  fro  in  front 
of  the  flame  (see  pi.  9).  Loud  chatter  and  song  enlivens 
the  work,  gay  with  the  anticipation  of  the  coming  enter- 
tainments. When  the  material  is  ready,  it  has  still  to  be 
cut,  trimmed,  and  dyed.  Two  kinds  of  roots  are  brought 
from  the  bush  for  the  dyeing,  one  giving  a  deep  purple, 
and  the  other  a  bright  crimson.  The  dye  is  mixed  in 
large  bowls  made  of  giant  clam  shells  5  in  these  the  leaf 
strips  are  steeped,  and  then  they  are  hung  up  in  thick 
bunches  to  dry  in  the  central  place,  enlivening  the  whole 
village  with  their  gay  colour  (see  pi.  10).  After  a  very 
complex  process  of  piecing  together,  a  resplendent  "crea- 
tion" results  3  the  golden  yellow  of  the  pandanus,  the  soft 
hay-green  or  dun  of  the  banana-leaf,  the  crimson  and 
purple  of  the  dyed  layers  form  a  really  beautiful  har- 
mony of  colour  against  the  smooth,  brown  skin  of  the 

Some  manufactures  are  carried  out  by  men  and  women 
together.  Both  sexes,  for  example,  take  part  in  the 
elaborate  process  which  is  necessary  in  preparing  certain 
shell  ornaments,^  while  nets  and  water-vessels  may  be 
made  by  either  sex. 

It  will  have  been  seen,  then,  that  women  do  not  bear 
the  brunt  of  all  the  drudgery  and  hard  work.  Indeed, 
the  heaviest  tasks  in  the  gardens  and  the  most  monotonous 
ones  are  performed  by  men.  On  the  other  hand,  women 
have  their  own  province  in  economic  activity  5  it  is  a  con- 
spicuous one,  and  through  it  they  assert  their  status  and 

^  Cf.  ch.  XV  of  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific, 




The  ideas  of  the  native  concerning  kinship  and  descent, 
with  their  assertion  of  the  mother's  exclusive  part  in 
propagation  5  the  position  of  woman  within  the  household, 
and  her  considerable  share  in  economic  life:  these  imply 
that  woman  plays  an  influential  role  in  the  community, 
and  that  her  status  cannot  be  low  or  unimportant.  In  this 
section  it  will  be  necessary  to  consider  her  legal  status 
and  her  position  in  the  tribe  5  that  is,  her  rank,  her  power, 
and  her  social  independence  of  man. 

In  the  first  section  of  the  previous  chapter  we  have  dis- 
cussed the  kinship  ideas  of  the  natives,  founded  on  the 
matrilineal  principle  that  everything  descends  through  the 
mother.  We  have  also  seen  that  the  real  guardianship 
of  her  family  remains  not  with  herself,  but  with  her 
brother.  This  can  be  generalized  into  the  formula  that, 
in  each  generation,  woman  continues  the  line  and  man  rep- 
resents itj  or,  in  other  words,  that  the  power  and  func- 
tions which  belong  to  a  family  are  vested  in  the  men  of 
each  generation,  though  they  have  to  be  transmitted  by 
the  women. 



Let  US  examine  some  of  the  consequences  of  this  prin- 
ciple.    For  the  continuation  and  very  existence  of  the 



family,  woman  as  well  as  man  is  indispensable  5  there- 
fore both  sexes  are  regarded  by  the  natives  as  being  of 
equal  value  and  importance.  When  you  discuss  genealo- 
gies with  a  native,  the  question  of  continuity  of  line  is 
constantly  considered  in  relation  to  the  number  of  women 
alive.  This  was  noticeable  whenever  a  man  of  a  sub-clan 
of  high  rank,  such  as  the  Tabalu  of  Omarakana,  discussed 
the  ethnographic  census  of  its  members  with  me:  the  fact 
that  there  was  a  great  number  of  women  would  be  em- 
phasized with  pleasure,  and  said  to  be  good  and  impor- 
tant. That  there  were  only  two  women  of  that  sub-clan 
of  high  rank  in  Omarakana,  while  there  were  several  male 
members,  was  obviously  a  sore  point,  and  every  Tabalu 
informant  volunteered  the  statement  that  there  were,  how- 
ever, more  women  in  the  younger  line  of  Olivilevi,  a 
village  in  the  south  of  the  island  also  ruled  by  the  Tabalu. 
A  man  of  any  clan  would  often,  in  speaking  of  his  family 
relations,  expatiate  on  the  number  of  his  sisters  and  of 
their  female  children  as  being  a  matter  of  real  importance 
to  his  lineage.  Thus  girls  are  quite  as  welcome  at  birth  as 
boys,  and  no  difference  is  made  between  them  by  the 
parents  in  interest,  enthusiasm,  or  affection.  It  is  needless 
to  add  that  the  idea  of  female  infanticide  would  be  as 
absurd  as  abhorrent  to  the  natives. 

The  general  rule  that  women  hand  on  the  privileges 
of  the  family  and  men  exercise  them,  must  be  examined 
as  it  works.  When  that  is  done  we  shall  be  able  to  under- 
stand the  principle  better  and  even  to  qualify  it  somewhat. 
The  idea  of  rank — that  is,  of  an  intrinsic,  social  superiority 
of  certain  people  as  their  birthright — ^is  very  highly  deveL 



oped  among  the  Trobriand  Islanders  3  and  a  consideration 
of  the  way  in  which  rank  aflFects  the  individual  will  best 
explain  the  working  of  the  general  principle. 

Rank  is  associated  with  definite  hereditary  groups  of 
a  totemic  nature,  which  have  already  been  designated  here 
as  sub-clans  (see  also  ch.  xiii,  sec.  5).  Each  sub-clan  has 
a  definite  rank  3  it  claims  to  be  higher  than  some,  and 
admits  its  inferiority  to  others.  Five  or  six  main  cate- 
gories of  rank  can,  broadly  speaking,  be  distinguished,  and 
within  these  the  minor  grades  are  of  but  small  impor- 
tance. For  the  sake  of  brevity  and  clarity,  I  shall  chiefly 
concern  myself  with  a  comparison  of  the  sub-clan  of 
Tabalu,  the  highest  of  all  in  rank,  with  its  inferiors. 

Every  village  community  "belongs  to"  or  is  "owned 
by"  one  such  sub-clan,  and  the  eldest  male  is  the  headman 
of  the  village.  When  the  sub-clan  is  of  highest  rank,  its 
oldest  male  not  only  is  headman  of  his  own  village,  but 
exercises  over-rule  in  a  whole  district,  and  is  what  we 
have  called  a  chief.  Chieftainship  and  rank  are,  there- 
fore, closely  associated,  and  rank  carries  with  it,  not  only 
social  distinction,  but  also  the  right  to  rule.  Now,  one  of 
these  two  attributes,  but  one  only,  social  distinction,  is 
shared  by  men  and  women  alike.  Every  woman  of  the 
highest  rank,  that  of  Tabalu,  enjoys  all  the  personal 
privileges  of  nobility.  The  male  members  of  the  clan 
will  perhaps  say  that  man  is  more  aristocratic,  more 
guya^u  than  woman,  but  probably  this  merely  expresses 
the  general  assumption  of  male  superiority.  In  all  con- 
crete manifestations  of  rank,  whether  traditional  or  social, 
the  two  sexes  are  equal.    In  the  extensive  mythology  re- 



f  erring  to  the  origin  of  the  various  sub-clans,  a  woman 
ancestress  always  figures  beside  the  man  (her  brother), 
and  there  are  even  myths  in  which  a  woman  alone  inau- 
^, ^urates  a  line.^ 

Another  important  manifestation  of  rank  is  the  complex 
system  of  taboos,  and  this  is  equally  binding  on  man  and 
woman.  The  taboos  of  rank  include  numerous  prohibi- 
tions in  the  matter  of  food,  certain  animals  especially  being 
forbidden,  and  there  are  some  other  notable  restrictions, 
such  as  that  prohibiting  the  use  of  any  water  except  from 
water-holes  in  the  coral  ridge.  These  taboos  are  enforced 
by  supernatural  sanction,  and  illness  follows  their  breach, 
even  if  it  be  accidental.  But  the  real  force  by  which  they 
are  maintained  is  a  strong  conviction  on  the  part  of  the 
taboo  keeper  that  the  forbidden  food  is  intrinsically  in- 
ferior, that  it  is  disgusting  and  defiling  in  itself.  When  it 
is  suggested  to  a  Tabalu  that  he  should  eat  of  stingaree 
or  bush  pig  he  shows  unmistakable  signs  of  repulsion  3  and 
cases  are  quoted  in  which  a  man  of  rank  has  vomited,  with 
every  sign  of  nausea,  some  forbidden  substance  which  he 
had  taken  unwittingly.  A  citizen  of  Omarakana  will 
speak  of  the  stingaree  eaters  of  the  lagoon  villages  with 
the  same  disgusted  contempt  as  the  right-minded  Briton 
uses  towards  the  frog-  and  snail-eaters  of  France,  or  the 
European  towards  the  puppy-  and  rotten-egg-eaters  of 

Now  a  woman  of  rank  fully  shares  in  this  disgust,  and 
in  the  danger  from  breaking  a  taboo.  If,  as  does  occa- 
sionally happen,  she  marries  a  man  of  lower  rank,  she 

^  Cf.  my  Myth  in  Primitive  Psychology,  ch.  ii 



must  have  all  food,  all  cooking  utensils,  dishes,  and  drink- 
ing vessels  separate  from  her  husband,  or  else  he  must 
forgo  all  such  diet  as  is  taboo  to  herj  the  latter  is  the 
course  more  usually  adopted. 

Rank  entitles  its  possessors  to  certain  ornaments,  which 
serve  both  as  its  insignia  and  as  festive  decorations.  For 
instance,  a  certain  kind  of  shell  ornament,  the  red  spondy- 
lus  shell-discs,  may  only  be  worn  on  the  forehead  and  on 
the  occiput  by  people  of  the  highest  rank.  As  belts  and 
armlets  they  are  also  permitted  to  those  next  in  rank. 
Again,  an  armlet  on  the  forearm  is  a  mark  of  the  first 
aristocracy.  Varieties  and  distinctions  in  personal  adorn- 
ment are  very  numerous,  but  it  will  be  enough  to  say  here 
that  they  are  observed  in  exactly  the  same  manner  by  male 
and  female,  though  the  ornaments  are  more  frequently 
made  use  of  by  the  latter. 

Certain  house  decorations,  on  the  other  hand,  such  as 
carved  boards  and  ornaments  of  shell  (pis.  2,  20,  and  23), 
which  are  in  pattern  and  material  exclusive  to  the  several 
higher  ranks,  are  primarily  made  use  of  by  the  male 
representatives.  But  a  woman  of  rank  who  marries  a 
commoner  would  be  fully  entitled  to  have  them  on  her 

The  very  important  and  elaborate  ceremonial  of  respect 
observed  towards  people  of  rank  is  based  on  the  idea  that 
a  man  of  noble  lineage  must  always  remain  on  a  physically 
higher  level  than  his  inferiors.  In  the  presence  of  a  noble, 
all  people  of  lower  rank  have  to  bow  the  head  or  bend 
the  body  or  squat  on  the  ground,  according  to  the  degree 
of  their  inferiority.    On  no  account  must  any  head  reach 



higher  than  that  of  the  chief.  Tall  platforms  are  always 
built  on  to  the  chief's  house,  and  on  one  of  these  he  will 
sit  so  that  the  people  may  freely  move  below  him  during 
tribal  gatherings  (see  pi.  2,  where  we  see  the  chief  lean- 
ing against  such  a  platform).  When  a  commoner  passes 
a  group  of  nobles  seated  on  the  ground,  even  at  a  dis- 
tance, he  has  to  call  out  tokay  ("arise"),  and  the  chiefs 
immediately  scramble  to  their  feet  and  remain  standing 
while  he  crouches  past  them.^  One  would  think  that  so 
uncomfortable  a  ceremonial  of  homage  would  have  been 
circumvented  in  some  way  3  but  this  is  not  the  case.  Many 
times  when  I  was  sitting  in  the  village  in  conversation  with 
the  chief,  a  commoner  would  pass  through  the  village 
grove,  and  call  out  tokay ^  and  though  this  would  happen 
every  quarter  of  an  hour  or  so,  my  friend  had  to  rise  while 
the  other,  bending  low,  walked  slowly  by.^ 

Women  of  rank  enjoy  exactly  the  same  privilege  in 
this  matter.  When  a  noblewoman  is  married  to  a  com- 
moner, her  husband  has  to  bend  before  her  in  public,  and 
others  have  to  be  still  more  careful  to  do  so.  A  high 
platform  is  erected  for  her  and  she  sits  upon  it  alone  at 
tribal  assemblies,  while  her  husband  moves  or  squats  be- 
low with  the  rest  of  the  crowd. 

^  Tokay,  as  noun,  also  means  "commoner."  The  noun  is  perhaps  de- 
rived etymologically  from  the  verb. 

2  When  To'uluwa,  the  paramount  chief  of  the  Trobriands,  was  put  in 
jail  by  the  resident  magistrate,  the  latter,  mostly,  I  am  afraid,  because  he 
wanted  to  humiliate  his  native  rival,  forbade  the  commoners  incarcerated 
with  the  chief  to  crouch  before  him.  In  spite  of  this,  I  have  been  told 
on  good  authority  by  several  eye-witnesses  that  all  the  commoners  in  jail 
did  constantly  move  bending,  except  when  the  white  satrap  appeared  upon 
the  scene.  This  is  an  example  of  the  short-sighted  policy  of^  the  typical 
white  official,  who  thinks  that  his  authority  can  only  be  maintained  at  the 
expense  of  the  native  chiefs,  and  thus  undermines  native  tribal  law  and 
introduces  a  spirit  of  anarchy. 



The  sanctity  of  the  chief's  person  is  particularly  local- 
ized in  his  head,  which  is  surrounded  by  a  halo  of  strict 
taboos.  More  especially  sacred  are  the  forehead  and  the 
occiput  with  the  neck.  Only  equals  in  rank,  the  wives  and 
a  few  particularly  privileged  persons,  are  allowed  to  touch 
these  parts,  for  purposes  of  cleaning,  shaving,  ornamenta- 
tion, and  delousing.  This  sanctity  of  the  head  extends  to 
the  female  members  of  the  noble  sub-clans,  and  if  a 
noblewoman  marries  a  commoner,  her  brow,  her  occiput, 
her  neck  and  shoulders,  should  not — in  theory  at  least — 
be  touched  by  the  husband  even  during  the  most  intimate 
phases  of  conjugal  life. 

Thus  in  myth,  in  the  observation  of  taboo,  and  in  the 
ceremonial  of  bending,  the  woman  enjoys  exactly  the  same 
privileges  of  rank  as  the  man  3  but  she  never  exercises 
the  actual  power  associated  with  it.  No  woman  is  ever  the 
head  of  any  sub-clan,  and  thus  she  cannot  be  a  chief  tainess. 
What  would  happen  should  there  be  no  male  members  in 
a  given  generation  I  cannot  say,  for  there  are  no  actual 
cases  of  this  on  record  j  but  the  interim  regency  of  a  woman 
seems  by  no  means  incompatible  with  the  ideas  of  the 
Trobrianders.  But,  as  we  shall  see  later  on  (ch.  v,  sec.  4), 
the  privilege  of  polygamy  is  the  foundation  of  a  chief's  or 
iieadman's  power,  and  women,  of  course,  have  no  such 
similar  privilege  of  polyandry. 

Many  other  social  functions  of  rank  are  directly  exer- 
cised by  men  alone,  the  women  participating  only  in  the 
social  prestige.  Thus  ownership  of  canoes,  for  instance, 
as  vested  in  the  headman — ^though  all  the  villagers  enjoy 
definite  rights  in  them — ^but  his  kinswomen  only  have 



the  benefit  of  the  renown  (hutura)^  that  is,  the  privilege 
of  talking  in  proprietary  terms  of  the  canoes  and  of  boast- 
ing about  them.^  Only  in  exceptional  cases  do  they  accom- 
pany their  men-folk  on  oversea  expeditions.  Again,  all 
sorts  of  rights,  privileges,  and  activities  connected  with 
the  kulay  a  special  system  of  exchange  in  valuables,  are 
the  prerogatives  of  men.  The  woman,  whether  the  man's 
wife  or  sister,  is  only  occasionally  drawn  personally  into 
the  matter.  For  the  most  part  she  but  basks  in  reflected 
glory  and  satisfaction.  In  war,  men  have  the  field  of 
action  entirely  to  themselves,  though  the  women  witness 
all  the  preparations  and  preliminary  ceremonies,  and  even 
take  an  occasional  peep  at  the  battlefield  itself.^ 

It  is  important  to  note  that  in  this  section,  when  com- 
paring the  parts  played  by  the  sexes,  we  have  had  quite  as 
often  to  set  the  brother  and  sister  side  by  side  as  the  hus- 
band and  wife.  Within  the  matrilineal  order,  the  brother 
and  the  sister  are  the  naturally  linked  representatives  of 
the  male  and  female  principle  respectively  in  all  legal 
and  customary  matters.  In  the  myths  concerning  the 
origin  of  families,  the  brother  and  sister  emerge  together 
from  underground,  through  the  original  hole  in  the  earth. 
In  family  matters,  the  brother  is  the  natural  guardian  and 
head  of  his  sister's  household,  and  of  her  children.  In 
tribal  usage,  their  respective  duties  and  obligations  are 
strictly  regulated,  and  these  form,  as  we  shall  see,  one  of 

1  These  questions  have  been  discussed  in  detail  in  Argonauts  of  the 
Western  Pacific,  ch.  iv,  sees,  iv  and  v,  and  ch.  xi,  sec.  ii.  Cf.  also  ch.  vi 
of  that  book,  and  Crime  and  Custom. 

2  For  a  full  description  of  the  kula,  see  Argonauts;  fighting  has  been 
described  in  the  article  on  "War  and  Weapons  Among  the  Natives  of  the 
Trobriand  Islands,"  Man,  1920. 



the  main  strands  in  the  social  fabric.  But  in  their  personal 
relations  the  strictest  taboo  divides  brother  from  sister — 
and  prevents  any  sort  of  intimacy  between  them/ 

As  woman  is  debarred  from  the  exercise  of  power,  land 
ownership,  and  many  other  public  privileges,  it  follows 
that  she  has  no  place  at  tribal  gatherings  and  no  voice 
in  such  public  deliberations  as  are  held  in  connection  with 
gardening,  fishing,  hunting,  oversea  expeditions,  war,  cere- 
monial trade,  festivities  and  dances. 


On  the  other  hand,  there  are  certain  ceremonial  and 
festive  activities  in  connection  with  which  women  have 
a  great  deal  both  to  say  and  to  do.  The  most  important 
of  these  in  solemnity  and  sanctity,  as  well  as  the  most 
imposing  in  display  and  extent,  are  the  mortuary  cere- 
monies. In  the  tending  of  the  corpse,  the  parade  of  grief, 
the  burial  with  its  manifold  rites  and  long  series  of  cere- 
monial food  distributions:  in  all  these  activities,  which 
begin  immediately  after  the  death  of  any  important  tribes- 
man and  continue  at  intervals  for  months  or  ^ven  years 
afterwards,  women  play  a  large  part  and  have  their  own 
definite  duties  to  fulfil.  Certain  women,  standing  in  a 
special  relationship  to  the  deceased,  have  to  hold  the  corpse 
on  their  knees,  and  fondle  itj  and  while  the  corpse  is 
tended  in  the  hut,  another  category  of  female  relatives 
performs  a  remarkable  rite  of  mourning  outside:  a  number 

1  Cf.  ch.  xiii,  sec.  6,  and  ch.  xlv. 



of  them,  some  in  couples  facing  each  other  and  some 
singly,  move  in  a  slow  dance,  forwards  and  backwards 
across  the  central  place,  to  the  rhythm  of  the  wailing  dirge 
(see  pi.  1 1).  As  a  rule,  each  of  them  carries  in  her  hand 
some  object  worn  or  possessed  by  the  deceased.  Such 
relics  play  a  great  part  in  mourning  and  are  worn  by  the 
women  for  a  long  time  after  their  bereavement.  The 
wrapping  up  of  the  corpse  and  the  subsequent  vigil  over 
the  grave  is  the  duty  of  yet  another  category  of  the  dead 
man's  womenkind. 

Some  functions  of  burial,  notably  the  gruesome  custom 
of  cutting  up  the  corpse,  are  performed  by  men.  In  the 
long  period  of  mourning  which  follows,  the  burden  of  the 
dramatic  expression  of  grief  falls  mostly  on  the  women  j 
a  widow  always  mourns  longer  than  a  widower,  a  mother 
longer  than  a  father,  a  female  relative  longer  than  a  male 
of  the  same  degree.  In  the  mortuary  distributions  of  food 
and  wealth,  based  on  the  idea  that  the  members  of  the 
deceased's  sub-clan  give  payment  to  the  other  relatives  for 
their  share  in  the  mourning,  women  play  a  conspicuous 
role,  and  conduct  some  parts  of  the  ceremonial  distribu- 
tions themselves  (see  pi.  12). 

I  have  barely  touched  on  the  mortuary  ceremonies,  as 
we  shall  have  to  return  to  them  presently  (ch.  vi,  sees. 
3  and  4),  but  I  have  said  enough  to  show  how  large  a 
share  women  take  in  this  class  of  religious  or  ceremonial 
display.  Some  tribal  ceremonies  in  which  women  alone 
are  active  will  be  described  in  detail  later,  and  it  is  only 
necessary  here  to  state  briefly  that  in  the  long  and  com- 
plicated ceremonial  of  first  pregnancy  (ch.  viii,  sees.  I  and 



2)  and  in  the  rites  o£  beauty  magic  at  festivities  (ch.  xi, 
sees.  2-4)  women  are  the  main  actors.  On  certain  occa- 
sions, such  as  first  pregnancy  ritual  and  the  first  appear- 
ance after  childbirth,  as  well  as  at  big  tribal  dances  and 
kayasa  (competitive  displays),  women  appear  in  full  dress 
and  decoration  (pi.  13),  which  correspond  to  the  men's 
full  festive  attire  (as  seen  on  pis.  14  and  79). 

An  interesting  incident  occurs  during  the  milamalay  the 
annual  season  of  dancing  and  feasting  held  after  the 
harvest.  This  period  is  inaugurated  by  a  ceremony,  the 
principal  aim  of  which  is  to  break  the  taboo  on  drums. 
In  this  initial  feast  there  is  a  distribution  of  food,  and  the 
men,  adorned  in  full  dancing  attire,  range  themselves  for 
the  performance,  the  drummers  and  the  singers  in  the 
centre  of  a  ring  formed  by  the  decorated  dancers.  As  in 
a  normal  dance,  standing  in  the  central  place,  the  singers 
intone  a  chant,  the  dancers  begin  to  move  slowly  and  the 
drummers  to  beat  time.  But  they  are  not  allowed  to 
proceed:  almost  at  the  first  throb  of  the  drums,  there 
breaks  forth  from  inside  the  huts  the  wailing  of  those 
women  who  are  still  in  mourning  5  from  behind  the  inner 
row  of  houses,  a  crowd  of  shrieking,  agitated  female 
figures  rush  out  and  attack  the  dancers,  beat  them  with 
sticks,  and  throw  coconuts,  stones,  and  pieces  of  wood  at 
them.  The  men  are  not  bound  by  custom  to  display  too 
considerable  courage  and  in  a  trice  the  drummers,  who 
had  so  solemnly  initiated  the  performance,  have  entirely 
disappeared  j  and  the  village  lies  empty,  for  the  women 
pursue  the  fugitives.    But  the  taboo  is  broken  and,  on  the 



afternoon  of  the  same  day,  the  first  undisturbed  dance  of 
the  festivities  is  held. 

In  full  dress  dancing  (see  pis.  14,  58,  6$,  73,  82),  it 
is  mainly  the  men  who  display  their  beauty  and  skill.  In 
some  dances,  such  as  those  performed  in  a  quick  tempo 
with  carved  dancing  boards  or  with  bunches  of  streamers 
or  in  conventionalized  imitation  of  animals,  men  alone 
may  participate  (pis.  6$,  73,  82).  Only  in  one  tradi- 
tional type  of  dance,  for  which  men  put  on  the  fibre  pet- 
ticoats of  the  female  (see  pis.  3,  58),  are  women  not 
debarred  by  custom  from  participation.  But  though  I 
witnessed  scores  of  performances  of  this  type,  I  only  once 
saw  a  wqmanly  actually  dance,  and  she  was  of  the  very 
highest  rank.  As  passive  witnesses  and  admirers,  how- 
ever, women  form  a  very  important  adjunct  to  this  form 
of  display. 

There  are  many  other  long,  continuous  periods  of 
amusement  in  the  Trobriands  besides  the  dancing  season, 
and  in  these  women  take  a  more  active  share.  The  nature 
of  the  amusement  is  fixed  in  advance,  and  has  to  remain 
the  same  during  the  whole  period.  There  are  different 
kinds  of  kayasa,  as  these  entertainments  are  called  (see 
ch.  ix,  sees.  2-4).  There  is  a  kayasa  in  which,  evening 
after  evening,  groups  of  women,  festively  adorned,  sit  on 
mats  and  sing;  in  another,  men  and  women,  wearing 
wreaths  and  garlands  of  flowers,  exchange  such  ornaments 
with  each  other  5  or  a  kayasa  is  announced,  the  main  theme 
of  which  is  a  general  daily  display  of  a  certain  type  of 
ornament.  Sometimes  the  members  of  a  community  pre- 
pare small  toy  sailing  canoes  and  hold  a  miniature  regatta 



daily  on  shallow  water.  There  can  be  also  a  kayasa  of 
erotic  pastimes.  Some  of  these  entertainments  are  exclu- 
sively feminine  (singing  and  certain  ornaments)  j  in  others 
both  sexes  participate  (flowers,  erotics,  and  hair  decora- 
tion) j  in  others  only  men  (the  toy  canoes). 

In  all  the  public  festivals  and  entertainments,  whether 
women  take  an  active  part  or  no,  they  are  never  excluded 
from  looking  on  or  freely  mixing  with  the  men  5  and  this 
they  do  on  terms  of  perfect  equality,  exchanging  banter 
and  jokes  with  them  and  engaging  in  easy  conversation. 

One  aspect  of  public  life  is  very  important  to  the 
Trobriander  and  stands  apart  as  something  peculiar  and 
specific.  The  native  sets  on  one  side  a  certain  category 
of  facts,  one  type  of  human  behaviour,  and  designates 
these  by  the  word  megway  which  may  be  quite  adequately 
translated  as  "magic."  Magic  is  very  intimately  associated 
with  economic  life  and  indeed  with  every  vital  concern  5  it 
is  also  an  instrument  of  power  and  an  index  of  the  im- 
portance of  those  who  practise  it.  The  position  of  women 
in  magic  deserves  therefore  very  special  consideration. 

Magic  constitutes  a  particular  aspect  of  reality.  In  all 
important  activities  and  enterprises  in  which  man  has  not 
the  issue  firmly  and  safely  in  hand,  magic  is  deemed 
indispensable.  Thus  appeal  is  m'ade  to  it  in  gardening 
and  fishing,  in  building  a  large  canoe,  and  in  diving  for 
valuable  shell,  in  the  regulation  of  wind  and  weather,  in 



war,  in  matters  of  love  and  personal  attraction,  in  secur- 
ing safety  at  sea  and  the  success  of  any  great  enterprise  j 
and,  last  but  not  least,  in  health  and  for  the  infliction  of 
ailments  upon  an  enemy.  Success  and  safety  in  all  these 
matters  is  largely  and  sometimes  entirely  dependent  upon 
magic,  and  can  be  controlled  by  its  proper  application. 
Fortune  or  failure,  dearth  or  plenty,  health  or  disease  are 
felt  and  believed  to  be  mainly  due  to  the  right  magic 
rightly  applied  in  the  right  circumstances. 

Magic  consists  of  spells  and  rites  performed  by  a  man 
who  is  entitled  by  the  fulfilment  of  several  conditions  to 
perform  them.  Magical  power  resides  primarily  in  the 
words  of  the  formula,  and  the  function  of  the  rite,  which 
is  as  a  rule  very  simple,  is  mainly  to  convey  the  magician's 
breath,  charged  with  the  power  of  the  words,  to  the 
object  or  person  to  be  affected.  All  magical  spells  are, 
believed  to  have  descended  unchanged  from  time  imme- 
morial, from  the  beginning  of  things. 

This  last  point  has  its  sociological  corollary  5  several 
systems  of  magic  are  hereditary,  each  in  a  special  sub- 
clan,  and  such  a  system  has  been  possessed  by  that  sub-clan 
since  the  time  it  came  out  from  underground.  •  It  can  only 
be  performed  by  a  member,  and  is,  of  course,  one  of  the 
valued  attributes  and  possessions  of  the  sub-clan  itself. 
It  is  handed  on  in  the  female  line,  though  usually,  as  with 
other  forms  of  power  and  possession,  it  is  exercised  by 
men  alone.  But  in  a  few  cases  such  hereditary  magic  can 
also  be  practised  by  women. 

The  power  given  by  magic  to  its  performer  is  not  due 
merely  to  the  effects  of  its  specific  influence.    In  the  most 



important  types  of  magic  the  rites  are  intimately  inter- 
woven with  the  activities  which  they  accompany  and  are 
not  merely  superimposed  upon  them.  Thus,  in  garden 
magic,  the  officiator  plays  an  economically  and  socially 
important  role  and  is  the  organizer  and  director  of  the 
work.  It  is  the  same  in  the  building  of  a  canoe  and  its 
magic,  and  in  the  rites  associated  with  the  conduct  of  an 
oversea  expedition:  the  man  who  technically  directs  and  is 
the  leader  of  the  enterprise  has  also  the  duty  or  privilege 
of  performing  the  magic."^  Both  functions,  the  directive 
and  the  magical,  are  indivisibly  united  in  the  same  person. 
In  other  types  of  magic,  which  are  placed  by  the  natives 
in  the  category  of  buluhwalata  (black  magic) — ^and  this 
comprises  all  sorcery  and,  among  others,  the  charms  for 
drought  or  rain — the  practitioner  has  an  immense  and 
direct  influence  over  other  tribesmen.  Magic  is  indeed 
by  far  the  most  efficient  and  frequently  used  instrument 
of  power. 

As  magic  is  so  intimately  bound  up  with  the  activity 
which  it  accompanies,  it  is  clear  that,  in  certain  types  of 
occupation,  the  division  of  functions  between  the  sexes 
will  involve  a  corresponding  division  in  magical  per- 
formance. Those  types  of  work  which  customarily  only 
men  perform  will  demand  a  man  as  officiating  magician  5 
where  women  are  occupied  with  their  own  business,  the 
magician  must  be  female.  Thus,  looking  at  the  table 
given  below,  we  see  that  in  fishing  and  hunting,  as  well 
as  in  wood  carving,  activities  in  which  no  woman  ever 
participates,  magic  is  exclusively  practised  by  men.    War 

1  Cf.  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Paci^c,  csp.  chs.  iv,  r,  vii,  and  xvii. 



magic,  too,  which  is  now  in  abeyance,  was  an  hereditary 
system  of  spells  and  rites  always  practised  by  a  man  of  a 
certain  sub-clan.  The  long  and  complex  series  of  spells 
which  accompany  the  building  of  a  sea-going  canoe  can 
never  be  made  by  a  v/oman,  and,  as  no  woman  ever  goes- 
on  a  ceremonial  overseas  expedition,  the  magic  of  safety 
and  of  kula  which  then  has  to  be  performed  can  only  be 
done  by  a  man. 

Division  of  Magic  Between  the  Sexes 


Public    garden    magic 

( Towosi) 
Canoe  building 
Magic  of  kula 

Weather   (sun  and 


War  magic  (Boma) 
Safety  at  sea 

Wood  carving  {Kabi- 

Sorcery  {Bivaga'u) 


Rites  of  first  preg- 

Skirt  making 

Prevention  of  dangers 
at  birth 


Elephantiasis,   swell- 

Affections  of  the  geni- 
tals with  discharge 


Female  witchcraft 
{Yoyova  or  Muluk- 


Beauty  magic 

Love  magic 

Private  garden  magic 

Again  there  are  some  important  types  of  magic  which 
are  obviously  adapted  to  female  hands  and  lips,  for  they 
are  attached  to  activities  or  functions  which  by  their  nature 
or  by  social  convention  exclude  the  presence  of  men.  Such 
is  the  magic  associated  with  the  ceremony  of  first  preg- 
nancy (see  ch.  viii,  sees,  i  and  2)  5  the  magic  of  the  expert 
which  gives  skill  in  the  manufacture  of  fibre  petticoats  j 
and  the  magic  of  abortion. 

There  are,  however,  mixed  spheres  of  activity  and  in- 



fluence,  such  as  gardening  or  love-making,  the  control  of 
the  weather  or  human  health,  where  at  first  glance  there 
appears  to  be  no  association  with  one  sex  rather  than  the 
other.  Yet  garden  magic  is  invariably  a  man's  concern 
and  women  never  perform  the  important  public  rites, 
most  scrupulously  observed  and  highly  valued  by  the 
natives,  which  are  carried  out  by  the  village  magician  over 
the  gardens  of  the  whole  community.^  Even  those  phases 
of  gardening,  such  as  weeding,  which  are  undertaken  ex- 
clusively by  women,  have  to  be  inaugurated  by  the  male 
garden  magician  in  an  official  ceremony.  Wind,  sunshine, 
and  rain  are  also  controlled  entirely  by  male  hands  and 

In  certain  mixed  activities  a  man  or  a  woman  can  equally 
well  perform  the  required  magic,  and  some  minor  rites 
of  private  garden  magic,  used  by  each  individual  for  his 
or  her  own  benefit,  can  be  carried  out  indiscriminately  by 
men  or  women.  There  is  the  magic  of  love  and  beauty, 
of  which  the  spells  are  recited  by  anyone  who  suffers  from 
unrequited  love  or  needs  to  enhance  his  or  her  personal 
charm.  Again,  on  certain  occasions,  such,  for  instance, 
as  the  big  tribal  festivals,  the  spells  of  beauty  are  publicly 
recited  by  women  over  men  (ch.  xi,  sqc.  3),  and,  at  other 
times,  men  apply  a  form  of  beauty  magic  to  their  own 
persons  and  ornaments.^ 

The  most  definite  allocation  of  magical  powers  to  one 

1  In  the  Amphlett  Islands,  on  the  other  hand,  garden  magic  is  made 
mainly  if  not  exclusively  by  women.  Among  the  natives  of  Dobu  Island 
and  on  the  north-eastern  shores  of  Dawson  Straits  in  the  d'Entrecasteaux 
Archipelago,  women  also  play  a  preponderating  role  in  garden  magic. 

2  Cf.  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  ch.  xiii,  sec.  i. 



or  other  of  the  sexes  is  to  be  found  in  the  dark  and 
dreaded  forces  of  sorcery:  those  forces  which  most  pro-;- 
foundly  affect  human  hope  and  happiness.  The  magic 
of  illness  and  health,  which  can  poison  life  or  restore  its 
natural  sweetness,  and  which  holds  death  as  it  were  for 
its  last  card,  can  be  made  by  men  and  women  alike  j  but 
its  character  changes  entirely  with  the  sex  of  the  prac- 
titioner. Man  and  woman  have  each  their  own  sorcery, 
carried  on  by  means  of  different  rites  and  formulae,  acting 
in  a  different  manner  on  the  victim's  body  and  surrounded 
by  an  altogether  different  atmosphere  of  belief.  Male 
sorcery  is  much  more  concrete,  and  its  methods  can  be 
stated  clearly,  almost  as  a  rational  system.  The  sorcerer's 
supernatural  equipment  is  restricted  to  his  power  of  van- 
ishing at  will,  of  emitting  a  shining  glow  from  his  person, 
and  of  having  accomplices  among  the  nocturnal  birds. 
Extremely  poor  means  of  supernatural  action  if  we  com- 
pare them  with  the  achievements  of  a  witch! 

A  witch — and  be  it  remembered  that  she  is  always  a  real 
woman  and  not  a  spiritual  or  non-human  being — ^goes  out 
on  her  nightly  errand  in  the  form  of  an  invisible  double  j 
she  can  fly  through  the  air  and  appears  as  a  falling  star  j 
she.  assumes  at  will  the  shape  of  a  fire-fly,  of  a  night  bird 
or  of  a  flying-fox  j  she  can  hear  and  smell  at  enormous 
distances  5  she  is  endowed  with  sarcophagous  propensities, 
and  feeds  on  corpses. 

The  disease  which  witches  cause  is  almost  incurable  and 
extremely  rapid  in  its  action,  killing,  as  a  rule,  immedi- 
ately. It  is  inflicted  by  the  removal  of  the  victim's  inside, 
which  the  woman  presently  consumes.     The  wizard,  on 



the  other  hand,  never  partakes  of  his  victim's  flesh,  his 
power  is  much  less  effective,  he  must  proceed  slowly,  and 
the  best  he  can  hope  for  is  to  inflict  a  lingering  disease, 
which  may,  with  good  luck,  kill  after  months  or  years  of 
steady  labour.  Even  then  another  sorcerer  can  be  hired 
to  counteract  his  work  and  restore  the  patient.  But  there 
is  little  chance  of  combating  a  witch,  even  if  the  help  of 
another  witch  be  sought  immediately. 

A  witch,  when  she  is  not  old,  is  no  less  desirable  sex- 
ually  than  other  women.  Indeed,  she  is  surrounded  by 
a  halo  of  glory  due  to  her  personal  power,  and  usually 
she  has  also  that  strong  individuality  which  seems  to  ac- 
company the  reputation  for  witchcraft.  The  attraction 
which  a  marriageable  young  witch  has  for  the  other  sex 
need  not  be  altogether  disinterested,  for  witchcraft  is 
occasionally  a  source  of  income  and  of  personal  influence 
in  which  it  is  pleasant  to  have  a  share.  But  the  profes- 
sion of  witch,  unlike  that  of  sorcerer,  is  not  exercised 
openly  3  a  witch  may  receive  payment  for  healing,  but 
she  never  undertakes  to  kill  for  a  fee.  In  this  again  she 
differs  from  the  sorcerer  who  derives  the  greater  part  of 
his  income  from  black  rather  than  from  curative  practice. 
Indeed,  even  when  a  woman  is  generally  known  to  be  a 
witch,  she  is  never  supposed  to  admit  it  explicitly,  even 
to  her  husband. 

Witchcraft  is  inherited  from  mother  to  daughter,  and 
an  early  initiation  has  to  take  place.  In  later  life,  the 
art  of  female  necromancy  is  sometimes  further  enhanced 
by  less  reputable  means.  Some  women  are  said  to  have 
sexual  relations  with  non-human,  highly  malignant  beings 



called  tauva^u  who  bring  epidemics  and  various  evils 
upon  the  people  (see  ch.  xii,  sec.  4).  By  them  they  are 
further  instructed  in  the  art  of  harming,  and  such  women 
are  greatly  feared.  Several  of  my  personal  acquaintance 
were  definitely  pointed  out  as  having  a  leman  from  the 
sphere  of  tauva*Uy  notably  the  wife  of  the  headman  o£ 
Obweria,  a  very  intelligent  and  enterprising  character, 
who  is  seen,  as  the  main  performer,  on  plates  77  and  78. 

From  the  point  of  view  of  the  investigating  sociologist, 
the  most  important  difference  between  male  and  female 
sorcery  lies  in  the  fact  that  the  wizard  actually  carries  on 
his  trade,  while  the  witch's  activity  exists  only  in  folk- 
lore and  in  the  imagination  of  the  native.  That  is  to  say, 
a  sorcerer  actually  knows  the  magic  of  his  trade  j  when 
called  upon  he  will  utter  it  over  the  proper  substances  j 
will  go  out  at  night  to  waylay  his  victim  or  visit  him  in 
his  hut  J  and  in  certain  cases,  I  suspect,  may  even  admin- 
ister poison.  The  witch,  on  the  other  hand,  however 
much  she  may  be  believed  to  play  the  part  of  a  yoyoyUy 
does  not — needless  to  say — ^really  fly  or  abstract  the  in- 
sides  of  people,  and  she  knows  no  spells  or  rites,  since 
this  type  of  female  magic  lives  merely  in  legend  and 

There  are  a  number  of  minor  ailments,  among  them 
toothache,  certain  tumours,  swelling  of  the  testicles  and 
genital  discharge  (gonorrhoea?),  which  woman  can  inflict 
on  man  by  means  of  magic.  Toothache  is  exclusively  a 
female  specialty,  and  one  woman  will  be  called  in  to 
cure  it  when  some  other  has  caused  it.  A  witch  can  pro- 
duce it  through  her  magical  power  over  a  small  beetle 



called  kifyiy  which  is  very  similar  to  the  one  which  makes 
holes  in  taro.  The  resemblance  between  dental  caries  and 
the  cavities  bored  by  the  beetle  in  taro  is  a  sufficient  proof 
that  similar  effects  have  been  produced  by  similar  causes. 
But  some  of  my  informants  had  actually  seen  the  small 
black  scarab  fall  out  of  a  man's  mouth  while  a  woman  was 
performing  the  curative  formula. 

There  are,  as  we  have  seen,  forms  of  hereditary  magic 
which  can  be  -carried  on  only  by  male  members  of  a  sub- 
clan,  or,  exceptionally,  by  the  son  of  such  a  member. 
(And  in  the  latter  case  he  has  to  relinquish  it  at  his  fa- 
ther's death.)  Now,  if  the  males  of  a  certain  generation 
were  to  die  out,  a  woman  could  learn  such  magic,  though 
she  would  not  be  allowed  to  practise  it,  and  when  she 
bore  a  male  heir  to  her  sub-clan,  would  teach  him  the 
formula  for  his  future  use.  Thus  woman  can  tide  over 
the  gap  of  one  generation,  carrying  in  her  memory  a  sys- 
tem of  garden  magic,  or  weather  and  wind  charms,  or 
spells  for  fishing,  hunting,  canoe  building,  and  oversea 
trade.  She  can  even  preserve  a  system  of  war  magic, 
but  she  must  never  learn  the  formula  of  masculine  sor- 
cery, which  is  strictly  taboo  to  the  female  sex.  Nor  is 
there  any  necessity  for  her  to  do  so,  since  this  magic  is 
never  strictly  hereditary  within  a  sub-clan. 

Thus  we  see  that  the  strong  tribal  position  of  women 
is  also  buttressed  by  their  right  to  exercise  magic — that 
toughest  and  least  destructible  substance  of  belief. 

And  now,  in  order  to  summarize  briefly  the  results  of 
this  chapter  and  the  previous  one,  let  us  imagine  that  we 



are  taking  a  bird's-eye  view  of  a  native  village,  and  are 
trying  to  form  a  compound  moving  picture  of  the  life  of 
the  community.  Casting  our  glance  over  the  central 
place,  the  street,  and  the  surrounding  grove  and  garden 
land,  we  see  them  peopled  by  men  and  women  mixing 
freely  and  on  terms  of  equality.  Sometimes  they  go  to- 
gether to  work  in  the  garden,  or  to  collect  food-stuffs  in 
the  jungle  or  on  the  sea-shore.  Or  else  they  separate, 
each  sex  forming  a  group  of  workers  engaged  in  some 
special  activity,  and  performing  it  efficiently  and  with 
interest.  Men  predominate  on  the  central  place,  discuss- 
ing, perhaps,  in  a  communal  gathering  the  prospects  of 
the  garden,  or  preparing  for  an  oversea  expedition  or 
for  some  ceremony.  The  street  is  peopled  by  women, 
busying  themselves  with  household  work,  and  there  the 
men  will  presently  join  them,  helping  them  to  amuse 
the  children  or  in  some  domestic  task.  We  can  hear  the 
women  scold  their  husbands,  usually  in  a  very  good- 
natured  manner. 

Let  us  suppose  our  attention  to  be  drawn  to  some  sin- 
gular event,  to  a  death,  a  tribal  squabble,  a  division  of 
inherited  wealth,  or  to  some  ceremony.  We  watch  it 
with  understanding  eyes,  and  see,  side  by  side,  the  work- 
ings of  tribal  law  and  custom,  and  the  play  of  personal 
passion  and  interest.  We  see  the  influence  of  matrilineal 
principles,  the  working  of  paternal  rule,  usages  of  tribal 
authority,  and  the  results  of  totemic  division  in  the  clans 
and  sub-clans.  In  all  this  there  is  a  balance  between  the 
influence  of  male  and  female,  the  man  wields  the  power 
while  the  woman  determines  its  distribution. 



Or  perhaps  the  central  place  is  thronged  by  a  mixed 
gathering,  gay  with  festive  dress  and  decorations.  Women 
move  with  a  soft  swaying  motion  in  their  holiday  attire, 
coquettishly  aware  of  the  lines  of  their  bodies  and  the 
elegant  swish-swish  of  their  full,  crimson,  purple,  and 
golden  skirts.  The  men  are  more  soberly  dressed,  and 
affect  a  stiff,  immovable  dignity.  They  move  very  little, 
unless  they  are  among  the  performers  in  the  dance  or 
other  festive  function.  These  last  are  covered  gorgeously 
with  ornaments,  and  are  instinct  with  life  and  motion. 
The  performance  starts  j  it  is  carried  on  sometimes  by 
men  only,  and  sometimes  by  women.  As  it  progresses, 
later  in  the  afternoon  or  in  the  evening,  the  young  men 
and  women  begin  to  show  some  interest  in  each  other: 
here  and  there  snatches  of  conversation,  bursts  of  laugh- 
ter and  giggling  can  be  heard.  Nothing  in  the  slightest 
degree  obscene,  indecent,  or  sexually  improper  can  be 
observed  in  their  behaviour,  though  their  vocabulary  is 
by  no  means  prim.  But,  since  we  understand  this  com- 
munity. We  know  that  assignations  are  being  made  and 
intrigues  inaugurated.  Thus  we  are  led  up  to  the  closer 
study  of  the  erotic  phase  of  native  life  5  and  we  now 
proceed  to  a  systematic  description  of  this  subject. 





The  Trobrianders  are  very  free  and  easy  in  their  sexual 
relations.  To  a  superficial  observer  it  might  indeed  ap- 
pear that  they  are  entirely  untrammelled  in  these.  This, 
however,  is  not  the  case  3  for  their  liberty  has  certain 
very  well-defined  limits.  The  best  way  of  showing  this 
will  be  to  give  a  consecutive  account  of  the  various  stages 
through  which  a  man  and  a  woman  pass  from  childhood 
to  maturity — a  sort  of  sexual  life-history  of  a  representa- 
tive couple. 

We  shall  have  first  to  consider  their  earliest  years,  for 
these  natives  begin  their  acquaintance  with  sex  at  a  very 
tender  age.  The  unregulated  and,  as  it  were,  capricious 
intercourse  of  these  early  years  becomes  systematized  in 
adolescence  into  more  or  less  stable  intrigues,  which  later 
on  develop  into  permanent  liaisons.  Connected  with  these 
latter  stages  of  sexual  life,  there  exists  in  the  Trobriand 
Islands  an  extremely  interesting  institution,  the  bachelors' 
and  unmarried  girls'  house,  called  by  the  natives  buku- 
matula;  it  is  of  considerable  importance,  as  it  is  one  of 
those  arrangements  sanctioned  by  custom  which  might 
appear  on  the  surface  to  be  a  form  of  "group-marriage." 





Children  in  the  Trobriand  Islands  enjoy  considerable 
freedom  and  independence.  They  soon  become  emanci- 
pated from  a  parental  tutelage  which  has  never  been 
very  strict.  Some  of  them  obey  their  parents  willingly, 
but  this  is  entirely  a  matter  of  the  personal  character  of 
both  parties:  there  is  no  idea  of  a  regular  discipline,  no 
system  of  domestic  coercion.  Often  as  I  sat  among  them,, 
observing  some  family  incident  or  listening  to  a  quarrel 
between  parent  and  child,  I  would  hear  a  youngster  told 
to  do  this  or  that,  and  generally  the  thing,  whatever  it 
was,  would  be  asked  as  a  favour,  though  sometimes  the 
request  might  be  backed  up  by  a  threat  of  violence.  The 
parents  would  either  coax  or  scold  or  ask  as  from  one 
equal  to  another.  A  simple  command,  implying  the  ex- 
pectation of  natural  obedience,  is  never  heard  from 
parent  to  child  in  the  Trobriands. 

People  will  sometimes  grow  angry  with  their  children 
and  beat  them  in  an  outburst  of  ragej  but  I  have  quite 
as  often  seen  a  child  rush  furiously  at  his  parent  and 
strike  him.  This  attack  might  be  received  with  a  good- 
natured  smile,  or  the  blow  might  be  angrily  returned  5 
but  the  idea  of  definite  retribution,  or  of  coercive  pun- 
ishment, is  not  only  foreign,  but  distinctly  repugnant  tO' 
the  native.  Several  times,  when  I  suggested,  after  some 
flagrant  infantile  misdeed,  that  it  would  mend  matters 
for  the  future  if  the  child  were  beaten  or  otherwise  pun- 



ished  in  cold  blood,  the  idea  appeared  unnatural  and  im- 
moral to  my  friends,  and  was  rejected  with  some  re- 

Such  freedom  gives  scope  for  the  formation  of  the 
children's  own  little  community,  an  independent  group, 
into  which  they  drop  naturally  from  the  age  of  four  or 
five  and  continue  till  puberty.  As  the  mood  prompts 
them,  they  remain  with  their  parents  during  the  day,  or 
else  join  their  playmates  for  a  time  in  their  small  republic 
(see  pis.  15,  16,  and  17).  And  this  community  within  a 
community  acts  very  much  as  its  own  members  determine, 
standing  often  in  a  sort  of  collective  opposition  to  its 
elders.  If  the  children  make  up  their  minds  to  do  a  cer- 
tain thing,  to  go  for  a  day's  expedition,  for  instance,  the 
grown-ups  and  even  the  chief  himself,  as  I  often  ob- 
served, will  not  be  able  to  stop  them.  In  my  ethno- 
graphic work  I  was  able  and  was  indeed  forced  to  collect 
my  information  about  children  and  their  concerns  directly 
from  them.  Their  spiritual  ownership  in  games  and 
childish  activities  was  acknowledged,  and  they  were  also 
quite  capable  of  instructing  me  and  explaining  the  in- 
tricacies of  their  play  or  enterprise  (see  pi.  15). 

Small  children  begin  also  to  understand  and  to  defer 
to  tribal  tradition  and  custom  5  to  those  restrictions  which 
have  the  character  of  a  taboo  or  of  a  definite  command 
of  tribal  law,  or  usage  or  propriety.^ 

1  The  processes  by  which  respect  for  tribal  taboo  and  tradition  is  in- 
stilled in  the  child  are  described  throughout  this  book,  especially  in  ch. 
xiii.  Custom  must  not  be  personified  nor  is  its  authority  absolute  or 
autonomous,  but  it  is  derived  from  specific  social  and  psychological  mech- 
anisms.    Cf.  my  Crime  and  Custom,  1926. 



The  child's  freedom  and  independence  extend  also  to 
sexual  matters.  To  begin  with,  children  hear  of  and 
witness  much  in  the  sexual  life  of  their  elders.  Within 
the  house,  where  the  parents  have  no  possibility  of  find- 
ing privacy,  a  child  has  opportunities  of  acquiring  prac- 
tical information  concerning  the  sexual  act.  I  was  told 
that  no  special  precautions  are  taken  to  prevent  children 
from  witnessing  their  parents'  sexual  enjoyment.  The 
child  would  merely  be  scolded  and  told  to  cover  its  head 
with  a  mat.  I  sometimes  heard  a  little  boy  or  girl  praised 
in  these  terms:  "Good  child,  he  never  tells  what  happens 
between  his  parents."  Young  children  are  allowed  to 
listen  to  baldly  sexual  talk,  and  they  understand  per- 
fectly well  what  is  being  discussed.  They  are  also 
themselves  tolerably  expert  in  swearing  and  the  use  of 
obscene  language.  Because  of  their  early  mental  develop- 
ment some  quite  tiny  children  are  able  to  make  smutty 
jokes,  and  these  their  elders  will  greet  with  laughter. 

Small  girls  follow  their  fathers  on  fishing  expeditions, 
during  which  the  men  remove  their  pubic  leaf.  Naked- 
ness under  these  conditions  is  regarded  as  natural,  since 
it  is  necessary.  There  is  no  lubricity  or  ribaldry  asso- 
ciated with  it.  Once,  when  I  was  engaged  in  the  discus- 
sion of  an  obscene  subject,  a  little  girl,  the  daughter  of 
one  of  my  informants,  joined  our  group.  I  asked  the 
father  to  tell  her  to  go  away.  "Oh,  no,"  he  answered, 
"she  is  a  good  girl,  she  never  repeats  to  her  mother  any- 
thing that  is  said  among  men.  When  we  take  her  fish- 
ing with  us  we  need  not  be  ashamed.  Another  girl  would 
describe  the  details  of  our  nakedness  to  her  companions 



or  her  mothers/  Then  these  will  chaflF  us  and  repeat 
what  they  have  heard  about  us.  This  little  girl  never 
"says  a  word."  The  other  men  present  enthusiastically 
assented,  and  developed  the  theme  of  the  girl's  discre- 
tion. But  a  boy  is  much  less  in  contact  with  his  mother 
in  such  matters,  for  here,  between  maternal  relations, 
that  is,  for  the  natives,  between  real  kindred,  the  taboo 
of  incest  begins  to  act  at  an  early  age,  and  the  boy  is  re- 
moved from  any  intimate  contact  of  this  sort  with  his 
mother  and  above  all  with  his  sisters. 

There  are  plenty  of  opportunities  for  both  boys  and 
girls  to  receive  instruction  in  erotic  matters  from  their 
companions.  The  children  initiate  each  other  into  the 
mysteries  of  sexual  life  in  a  directly  practical  manner  at 
a  very  early  age.  A  premature  amorous  existence  begins 
among  them  long  before  they  are  able  really  to  carry 
out  the  act  of  sex.  They  indulge  in  plays  and  pastimes 
in  which  they  satisfy  their  curiosity  concerning  the  ap- 
pearance and  function  of  the  organs  of  generation,  and 
incidentally  receive,  it  would  seem,  a  certain  amount  of 
positive  pleasure.  Genital  manipulation  and  such  minor 
perversions  as  oral  stimulation  of  the  organs  are  typical 
forms  of  this  amusement.  Small  boys  and  girls  are  said 
to  be  frequently  initiated  by  their  somewhat  older  com- 
panions, who  allow  them  to  witness  their  own  amorous 
dalliance.  As  they  are  untrammelled  by  the  authority  of 
their  elders' and  unrestrained  by  any  moral  code,  except 
that  of  specific  tribal  taboo,  there  is  nothing  but  their  de- 

1  That  Is,  "classificatory  mothers,"  mother,  maternal  aunts,  etc.    Cf.  ch. 
ixiii,  sees.  5  and  6, 



gree  of  curiosity,  of  ripeness,  and  of  "temperament"  or 
sensuality,  to  determine  how  much  or  how  little  they 
shall  indulge  in  sexual  pastimes. 

The  attitude  of  the  grown-ups  and  even  of  the  parents 
towards  such  infantile  indulgence  is  either  that  of  com- 
plete indijfference  or  that  of  complacency — ^they  find  it 
natural,  and  do  not  see  why  they  should  scold  or  interfere. 
Usually  they  show  a  kind  of  tolerant  and  amused  inter- 
est, and  discuss  the  love  affairs  of  their  children  with 
easy  jocularity.  I  often  heard  some  such  benevolent  gos- 
sip as  this:  "So-and-so  (a  little  girl)  has  already  had 
intercourse  with  So-and-so  (a  little  boy)."  And  if  such 
were  the  case,  it  would  be  added  that  it  was  her- first 
experience.  An  exchange  of  lovers,  or  some  small  love 
drama  in  the  little  world  would  be  half-seriously,  half- 
jokingly  discussed.  The  infantile  sexual  act,  or  its  sub- 
stitute, is  regarded  as  an  innocent  amusement.  "It  is 
their  play  to  kayta  (to  have  intercourse).  They  give 
each  other  a  coconut,  a  small  piece  of  betel-nut,  a  few 
beads  or  some  fruits  from  the  bush,  and  then  they  go 
and  hide,  and  kayta,^^  But  it  is  not  considered  proper  for 
the  children  to  carry  on  their  affairs  in  the  house.  It  has 
always  to  be  done  in  the  bush. 

The  age  at  which  a  girl  begins  to  amuse  herself  in  this 
manner  is  said  to  coincide  with  her  putting  on  the  small 
fibre  skirt,  between,  that  is,  the  ages  of  four  and  five. 
But  this  obviously  can  refer  only  to  incomplete  practices 
and  not  to  the  real  act.  Some  of  my  informants  insisted 
that  such  small  female  children  actually  have  intercourse 
with  penetration.     Remembering,  however,  the  Trobri- 



ander's  very  strong  tendency  to  exaggerate  in  the  direc- 
tion of  the  grotesque,  a  tendency  not  altogether  devoid 
of  a  certain  malicious  Rabelaisian  humour,  I  am  inclined 
to  discount  those  statements  of  my  authorities.  If  we 
place  the  beginning  of  real  sexual  life  at  the  age  of  six 
to  eight  in  the  case  of  girls,  and  ten  to  twelve  in  the  case 
of  boys,  we  shall  probably  not  be  erring  very  greatly  in 
either  direction.  And  from  these  times  sexuality  will 
gradually  assume  a  greater  and  greater  importance  as  life 
goes  on,  until  it  abates  in  the  course  of  nature. 

Sexual,  or  at  least  sensuous,  pleasure  constitutes  if  not 
the  basis  of,  at  least  an  element  in,  many  of  the  children's 
pastimes.  Some  of  them  do  not,  of  course,  provide  any 
sexual  excitement  at  all,  as  for  instance  those  in  imitation 
of  the  grown-up  economic  and  ceremonial  activities  (see 
pi.  17),  or  games  of  skill  or  childish  athletics 5  but  all 
sorts  of  round  games,  which  are  played  by  the  children 
of  both  sexes  on  the  central  place  of  the  village,  have  a 
more  or  less  strongly  marked  flavour  of  sex,  though  the 
outlets  they  furnish  are  indirect  and  only  accessible  to  the 
elder  youths  and  maidens,  who  also  join  in  them.  In- 
deed, we  shall  have  to  return  later  (chs.  ix  and  xi)  to  a 
consideration  of  sex  in  certain  games,  songs,  and  stones, 
for  as  the  sexual  association  becomes  more  subtle  and 
indirect  it  appeals  more  and  more  to  older  people  alone 
and  has,  therefore,  to  be  examined  in  the  contexts  of  later 

There  are,  however,  some  specific  games  in  which  the 
older  children  never  participate,  and  into  which  sex  di- 
rectly enters.     The  little  ones  sometimes  play,  for  in- 



stance,  at  house-building,  and  at  family  life.  A  small 
hut  of  sticks  and  boughs  is  constructed  in  a  secluded  part 
of  the  jungle,  and  a  couple  or  more  repair  thither  and 
play  at  husband  and  wife,  prepare  food  and  carry  out  or 
imitate  as  best  they  can  the  act  of  sex.  Or  else  a  band 
of  them,  in  imitation  of  the  amorous  expeditions  of  their 
elders,  carry  food  to  some  favourite  spot  on  the  sea-shore 
or  in  the  coral  ridge,  cook  and  eat  vegetables  there,  and 
"when  they  are  full  of  food,  the  boys  sometimes  fight 
with  each  other,  or  sometimes  kayta  (copulate)  with  the 
girls."  When  the  fruit  ripens  on  certain  wild  trees  in  the 
jungle  they  go  in  parties  to  pick  it,  to  exchange  presents, 
make  kula  (ceremonial  exchange)  of  the  fruit,  and  en- 
gage in  erotic  pastimes.^ 

Thus  it  will  be  seen  that  they  have  a  tendency  to  pal- 
liate the  crudity  of  their  sexual  interest  and  indulgence 
by  associating  it  with  something  more  poetic.  Indeed,  the 
Trobriand  children  show  a  great  sense  of  the  singular  and 
romantic  in  their  games.  For  instance,  if  a  part  of  the 
jungle  or  village  has  been  flooded  by  rain,  they  go  and 
sail  their  small  canoes  on  this  new  watery  or  if  a  very 
strong  sea  has  thrown  up  some  interesting  flotsam,  they 
proceed  to  the  beach  and  inaugurate  some  imaginative 
game  around  it.  The  little  boys,  too,  search  for  unusual 
animals,  insects,  or  flowers,  and  give  them  to  the  little 
girls,  thus  lending  a  redeeming  aesthetic  touch  to  their 
premature  eroticisms. 

In  spite  of  the  importance  of  the  sexual  motive  in  the 

1  For  a  description  of  the  real   kula,  cf.  Argonauts  of  the  Western 



life  of  the  youngest  generation,  it  must  be  kept  in  mind 
that  the  separation  of  the  sexes,  in  many  matters,  obtains 
also  among  children.  Small  girls  can  very  often  be  seen 
playing  or  wandering  in  independent  parties  by  them- 
selves. Little  boys  in  certain  moods — and  these  seem 
their  more  usual  ones — scorn  the  society  of  the  female 
and  amuse  themselves  alone  (pi.  17).  Thus  the  small 
republic  falls  into  two  distinct  groups  which  are  perhaps 
to  be  seen  more  often  apart  than  together  j  and,  though 
they  frequently  unite  in  play,  this  need  by  no  means  be 
necessarily  sensuous. 

It  is  important  to  note  that  there  is  no  interference  by 
older  persons  in  the  sexual  life  of  children.  On  rare 
occasions  some  old  man  or  woman  is  suspected  of  taking 
a  strong  sexual  interest  in  the  children,  and  even  of  hav- 
ing intercourse  with  some  of  them.  But  I  never  found 
such  suspicions  supported  even  by  a  general  consensus  of 
opinion,  and  it  was  always  considered  both  improper  and 
silly  for  an  older  man  or  woman  to  have  sexual  dealings 
with  a  child.  There  is  certainly  no  trace  of  any  custom 
of  ceremonial  defloration  by  old  men,  or  even  by  men 
belonging  to  an  older  age  class. 



I  have  just  used  the  expression  "age  class,"  but  I  did 
so  in  a  broad  sense  only:  for  there  are  no  sharply  distin- 
guished age  grades  or  classes  among  the  Trobriand  na- 
tives.    The  following  table   of  age  designations   only 



roughly  indicates  the  stages  of  their  life  3  for  these  stages 
in  practice  merge  into  one  another. 

Designations  of  Age 

1.  JVaywaya    (foetus;    infant   till    the    age    of"^ 
crawling,  both  male  and  female) 

2.  Piuapiua'iva   (infant,   till   the   stage  of  walk- 
ing, male  or  female) 

3.  Giuadi   (child,  till  puberty,  male  or  female) 

4.  Monag'wadi    (male        4.    Inagivadi     (female 
child)  child) 

5.  To'ulaiile  (youth 
from  puberty  till 

6.  Tobuhonva'u  (ma- 
ture man) 

6a.  Tovavaygile  (mar- 
ried man) 

7.  Tomivaya   (old 

7fl.  Toboma  (old 
honoured  man) 

5.  Nakapugula  or 
N  akubukivabuya 
(girl    from    puberty  I 
till  marriage) 

6.  Nabuboiva'u    (ripej 

6a.  Navavaygile 
(married  woman) 

7.  Numivaya   (old 

I.  Stage :  Givadi — 
Word  used  as  a 
generic  designation 
for  all  these  stages 
1-4,  meaning  child, 
male  or  female,  at 
any  time  between 
birth    and   maturity 

II.  Stage:  Generic 
designations  —  Ta'u 
(man),    Vivila 

III.  Stage:  Old  age 

The  terms  used  in  this  table  will  be  found  to  overlap 
in  some  instances.  Thus  a  very  small  infant  may  be  re- 
ferred to  as  waywaya  or  fwafwawa  indiscriminately,  but 
only  the  former  term  as  a  rule  would  be  used  in  speaking 
of  a  foetus  or  referring  to  the  pre-incarnated  children 
from  Tuma.^  Again,  you  might  call  a  few  months  old 
child  either  gwadi  or  fwafwaway  but  the  latter  term 
would  be  but  seldom  used  except  for  a  very  small  baby. 
The  term  gwadi  moreover  can  be  used  generically,  as 
"child"  in  English,  to  denote  anything  from  a  foetus  to 
a  young  boy  or  girl.  Thus,  it  will  be  seen  that  two  terms 
may  encroach  on  each  other's  field  of  meaning,  but  only 

1  Cf .  ch.  vii,  sec.  a. 



if  they  be  consecutive.  The  terms  with  sex  prefixes  (4) 
are  normally  used  only  of  elder  children  who  may  be  dis- 
tinguished by  their  dress. 

There  are,  besides  these  more  specific  subdivisions,  the 
three  main  distinctions  of  age,  between  the  ripe  man  and 
woman  in  the  full  vigour  of  life  and  the  two  stages — 
those  of  childhood  and  of  old  age^which  limit  man- 
hood and  womanhood  on  either  side.  The  second  main 
stage  is  divided  into  two  parts,  mainly  by  the  fact  of  mar- 
riage. Thus,  the  words  under  (5)  primarily  designate 
unmarried  people  and  to  that  extent  are  opposed  to  (60), 
but  they  also  imply  youth  fulness  or  unripeness,  and  in 
that  respect  are  opposed  to  (6). 

The  male  term  for  old  age,  tomwuya  (7)  can  also  de- 
note rank  or  importance.  I  myself  was  often  so  ad- 
dressed, but  I  was  not  flattered,  and  much  preferred  to 
be  called  tohoma  (literally  "the  tabooed  man"),  a  name 
given  to  old  men  of  rank,  but  stressing  the  latter  attribute 
rather  than  the  former.  Curiously  enough,  the  compli- 
ment or  distinction  implied  in  the  word  tomwaya  be- 
comes much  weaker,  and  almost  disappears  in  its  feminine 
equivalent.  Numwaya  conveys  that  tinge  of  scorn  or 
ridicule  inseparable  from  "old  woman"  in  so  many  lan- 



When  a  boy  reaches  the  age  of  from  twelve  to  four- 
teen years,  and  attains  that  physical  vigour  which  comes 
with  sexual  maturity,  and  when,  above  all,  his  increased 



strength  and  mental  ripeness  allow  him  to  take  part, 
though  still  in  a  somewhat  limited  and  fitful  manner,  in 
some  of  the  economic  activities  of  his  elders,  he  ceases  to 
be  regarded  as  a  child  (gwadi)^  and  assumes  the  position 
of  adolescent  {ulatile  or  to^ulatile).  At  the  same  time 
he  receives  a  different  status,  involving  some  duties  and 
many  privileges,  a  stricter  observance  of  taboos,  and  a 
greater  participation  in  tribal  affairs.  He  has  already 
donned  the  pubic  leaf  for  some  time  5  now  he  becomes 
more  careful  in  his,  wearing  of  it,  and  more  interested  in 
its  appearance.  The  girl  emerges  from  childhood  into 
adolescence  through  the  obvious  bodily  changes:  "her 
breasts  are  round  and  fullj  her  bodily  hair  begins  to 
growj  her  menses  flow  and  ebb  with  every  moon,"  as  the 
natives  put  it.  She  also  has  no  new  change  in  her  attire 
to  make,  for  she  has  much  earlier  assumed  her  fibre  skirt, 
but  now  her  interest  in  it  from  the  two  points  of  view  of 
elegance  and  decorum  is  greatly  increased. 

At  this  stage  a  partial  break-up  of  the  family  takes 
place.  Brothers  and  sisters  must  be  segregated  in  obedi- 
ence to  that  stringent  taboo  which  plays  such  an  important 
part  in  tribal  life.^  The  elder  children,  especially  the 
males,  have  to  leave  the  house,  so  as  not  to  hamper  by 
their  embarrassing  presence  the  sexual  life  of  their  par- 
ents. This  partial  disintegration  of  the  family  group  is 
effected  by  the  boy  moving  to  a  house  tenanted  by  bach- 
elors or  by  elderly  widowed  male  relatives  or  friends. 
Such  a  house  is  called  hukumatula^  and  in  the  next  section 
we  shall  become  acquainted  with  the  details  of  its  arrange- 

1  Cf.  ch.  xiii,  6,  and  ch.  xiv. 



ment.  The  girl  sometimes  goes  to  the  house  of  an  elderly 
widowed  maternal  aunt  or  other  relative. 

As  the  boy  or  girl  enters  upon  adolescence  the  nature 
of  his  or  her  sexual  activity  becomes  more  serious.  It 
ceases  to  be  mere  child's  play  and  assumes  a  prominent 
place  among  life's  interests.  What  was  before  an  unstable 
relation  culminating  in  an  exchange  of  erotic  manipula- 
tion or  an  immature  sexual  act  becomes  now  an  absorbing 
passion,  and  a  matter  for  serious  endeavour.  An  adoles- 
cent gets  definitely  attached  to  a  given  person,  wishes  to 
possess  her,  works  purposefully  towards  this  goal,  plans 
to  reach  the  fulfilment  of  his  desires  by  magical  and  other 
means,  and  finally  rejoices  in  achievement.  I  have  seen 
young  people  of  this  age  grow  positively  miserable 
through  ill-success  in  love.  This  stage,  in  fact,  differs 
from  the  one  before  in  that  personal  preference  has  now 
come  into  play  and  with  it  a  tendency  towards  a  greater 
permanence  in  intrigue.  The  boy  develops  a  desire  to 
retain  the  fidelity  and  exclusive  affection  of  the  loved 
one,  at  least  for  a  time.  But  this  tendency  is  not  asso- 
ciated so  far  with  any  idea  of  settling  down  to  one  exclu- 
sive relationship,  nor  do  adolescents  yet  begin  to  think  of 
marriage.  A  boy  or  girl  wishes  to  pass  through  many 
more  experiences j  he  or  she  still  enjoys  the  prospect  of 
complete  freedom  and  has  no  desire  to  accept  obligations. 
Though  pleased  to  imagine  that  his  partner  is  faithful, 
the  youthful  lover  does  not  feel  obliged  to  reciprocate 
this  fidelity. 

We  have  seen  in  the  previous  section  that  a  group  of 
children  forming  a  sort  of  small  republic  within  the  com- 



munity  is  conspicuous  in  every  village.  Adolescence  fur- 
nishes  the  community  with  another  small  group,  of 
youths  and  girls.  At  this  stage,  however,  though  the 
boys  and  girls  are  much  more  bound  up  in  each  other  as 
regards  amorous  interests,  they  but  rarely  mix  in  public 
or  in  the  daytime.  The  group  is  really  broken  up  into 
two,  according  to  sex  (pis.  i8  and  193  see  also  pis.  59 
and  61).  To  this  division  there  correspond  two  words, 
to^ulatile  and  nakubukwabuyay  there  being  no  one  expres- 
sion— such  as  there  is  to  describe  the  younger  age  group, 
gugwadiy  children — to  define  the  adolescent  youth  of 
both  sexes. 

The  natives  take  an  evident  pride  in  this,  "the  flower 
of  the  village,"  as  it  might  be  called.  They  frequently 
mention  that  "all  the  to^ulatile  and  nakubukwahuya 
(youths  and  girls)  of  the  village  were  there."  In 
speaking  of  some  competitive  game,  or  dance  or  sport, 
they  compare  the  looks  or  performance  of  their  own 
youths  with  those  of  some  other  village,  and  always  to 
the  advantage  of  their  own.  This  group  leads  a  happy, 
free,  arcadian  existence,  devoted  to  amusement  and  the 
pursuit  of  pleasure. 

Its  members  are  so  far  not  claimed  by  any  serious  du- 
ties, yet  their  greater  physical  strength  and  ripeness  give 
them  more  independence  and  a  wider  scope  of  action  than 
they  had  as  children.  The  adolescent  boys  participate, 
but  mainly  as  free-lances,  in  garden  work  (see  pi.  19), 
in  the  fishing  and  hunting  and  in  oversea  expeditions  j 
they  get  all  the  excitement  and  pleasure,  as  well  as  some 
of  the  prestige,  yet  remain  free  from  a  great  deal  of  the 



drudgery  and  many  of  the  restrictions  which  trammel  and 
weigh  on  their  elders.  Many  of  the  taboos  are  not  yet 
quite  binding  on  them,  the  burden  of  magic  has  not  yet 
fallen  on  their  shoulders.  If  they  grow  tired  of  work, 
they  simply  stop  and  rest.  The  self-discipline  of  ambition 
and  subservience  to  traditional  ideals,  which  moves  all  the 
elder  individuals  and  leaves  them  relatively  little  per- 
sonal freedom,  has  not  yet  quite  drawn  these  boys  into 
the  wheels  of  the  social  machine.  Girls,  too,  obtain  a 
certain  amount  of  the  enjoyment  and  excitement  denied 
to  children  by  joining  in  some  of  the  activities  of  their 
elders,  while  still  escaping  the  worst  of  the  drudgery. 

Young  people  of  this  age,  besides  conducting  their 
love  affairs  more  seriously  and  intensely,  widen  and  give 
u  greater  variety  to  the  setting  of  their  amours.  Both 
sexes  arrange  picnics  and  excursions  and  thus  their  in- 
dulgence in  intercourse  becomes  associated  with  an  enjoy- 
ment of  novel  experiences  and  fine  scenery.  They  also 
form  sexual  connections  outside  the  village  community 
to  which  they  belong.  Whenever  there  occurs  in  some 
other  locality  one  of  the  ceremonial  occasions  on  which 
custom  permits  of  licence,  thither  they  repair,  usually  in 
bands  either  of  boys  or  of  girls,  since  on  such  occasions 
opportunity  of  indulgence  offers  for  one  sex  alone  (see 
ch.  ix,  esp.  sees.  6  and  7). 

It  is  necessary  to  add  that  the  places  used  for  love- 
making  differ  at  this  stage  from  those  of  the  previous 
one.  The  small  children  carry  on  their  sexual  practices 
surreptitiously  in  bush  or  grove  as  a  part  of  their  games, 
using  all  sorts  of  makeshift  arrangements  to  attain  pri- 



vacy,  but  the  ulatile  (adolescent)  has  either  a  couch  d£ 
his  own  in  a  bachelors'  house,  or  the  use  of  a  hut  belong- 
ing to  one  of  his  unmarried  relatives.  In  a  certain  type 
of  yam-house,  too,  there  is  an  empty  closed-in  space  in 
which  boys  sometimes  arrange  little  "cosy-corners,"  af- 
fording room  for  two.  In  these,  they  make  a  bed  of  dry 
leaves  and  mats,  and  thus  obtain  a  comfortable  gargon- 
nierey  where  they  can  meet  and  spend  a  happy  hour  or 
two  with  their  loves.  Such  arrangements  are,  of  course, 
necessary  now  that  amorous  intercourse  has  become  a  pas- 
sion instead  of  a  game. 

But  a  couple  will  not  yet  regularly  cohabit  in  a  bach- 
elors' house  {hukumatuld) y  living  together  and  sharing 
the  same  bed  night  after  night.  Both  girl  and  boy  prefer 
to  adopt  more  furtive  and  less  conventionally  binding 
methods,  to  avoid  lapsing  into  a  permanent  relationship 
which  might  put  unnecessary  restraint  upon  their  liberty 
by  becoming  generally  known.  That  is  why  they  usually 
prefer  a  small  nest  in  the  sokwayfa  (covered  yam-house), 
or  the  temporary  hospitality  of  a  bachelors'  house. 

We  have  seen  that  the  youthful  attachments  between 
boys  and  girls  at  this  stage  have  ripened  out  of  childish 
games  and  intimacies.  All  these  young  people  have 
grown  up  in  close  propinquity  and  with  full  knowledge 
of  each  other.  Such  early  acquaintances  take  fire,  as  it 
were,  under  the  influence  of  certain  entertainments,  where 
the  intoxicating  influence  of  music  and  moonlight,  and 
the  changed  mood  and  attire  of  all  the  participants,  trans- 
figure the  boy  and  girl  in  each  other's  eyes.  Intimate 
observation  of  the  natives  and  their  personal  confidences 

66       , 


have  convinced  me  that  extraneous  stimuli  of  this  kind 
play  a  great  part  in  the  love  affairs  of  the  Trobrianders. 
Such  opportunities  of  mutual  transformation  and  escape 
from  the  monotony  of  everyday  life  are  afforded  not 
only  by  the  many  fixed  seasons  of  festivity  and  permitted 
licence,  but  also  by  that  monthly  increase  in  the  people's 
pleasure-seeking  mood  which  leads  to  many  special  pas- 
times at  the  full  of  the  moon/ 

Thus  adolescence  marks  the  transition  between  infan- 
tile and  playful  sexualities  and  those  serious  permanent 
relations  which  precede  marriage.  During  this  interme- 
diate period  love  becomes  passionate  and  yet  remains  free. 

As  time  goes  on,  and  the  boys  and  girls  grow  older, 
their  intrigues  last  longer,  and  their  mutual  ties  tend  to 
become  stronger  and  more  permanent.  A  personal  pref- 
erence as  a  rule  develops  and  begins  definitely  to  over- 
shadow all  other  love  affairs.  It  may  be  based  on  true 
sexual  passion  or  else  on  an  affinity  of  characters.  Prac- 
tical considerations  become  involved  in  it,  and,  sooner  or 
later,  the  man  thinks  of  stabilizing  one  of  his  liaisons  by 
marriage.  In  the  ordinary  course  of  events,  every  mar- 
riage is  preceded  by  a  more  or  less  protracted  period  of 
sexual  life  in  common.  This  is  generally  known  and 
spoken  of,  and  is  regarded  as  a  public  intimation  of  the 
matrimonial  projects  of  the  pair.  It  serves  also  as  a  test 
of  the  strength  of  their  attachment  and  extent  of  their 
mutual  compatibility.  This  trial  period  also  gives  time 
for  the  prospective  bridegroom  and  for  the  woman's 
family  to  prepare  economically  for  the  event. 

1  Cf.  ch.  ix. 



Two  people  living  together  as  permanent  lovers  are 
described  respectively  as  "his  woman"  {la  vivila)  and 
"her  man"  {la  ta^u).  Or  else  a  term,  also  used  to  de- 
scribe the  friendship  between  two  men,  is  applied  to  this 
relationship  {lubay-j  with  pronominal  suffixes).  In  order 
to  distinguish  between  a  passing  liaison  and  one  which  is 
considered  preliminary  to  marriage,  they  would  say  of 
the  female  concerned  in  the  latter:  "/^  vivila  mokita; 
imisiya  yambwata  yambwata^^ — "his  woman  truly  5  he 
sleeps  with  her  always  always."  In  this  locution  the 
sexual  relationship  between  the  two  is  denoted  by  the 
verb  "to  sleep  with"  {imisiya)y  the  durative  and  iterative 
form  of  masisiy  to  sleep.  The  use  of  this  verb  also  em- 
phasizes the  lawfulness  of  the  relation,  for  it  is  used  in 
talking  of  sexual  intercourse  between  husband  and  wife, 
or  of  such  relations  as  the  speaker  wishes  to  discuss  seri- 
ously and  respectfully.  An  approximate  equivalent  in 
English  would  be  the  verb  "cohabit."  The  natives  have 
two  other  words  in  distinction  to  this.  The  verb  kaylasiy 
which  implies  an  illicit  element  in  the  act,  is  used  when 
speaking  of  adultery  or  other  forms  of  non-lawful  inter- 
course. Here  the  English  word  "fornicate"  would  come 
nearest  to  rendering  the  native  meaning.  When  the  na- 
tives wish  to  indicate  the  crude,  physiological  fact,  they 
use  the  word  kayta^  translatable,  though  pedantically,  by 
the  verb  "copulate  with." 

The  pre-matrimonial,  lasting  intrigue  is  based  upon 
and  maintained  by  personal  elements  only.  There  is  no 
legal  obligation  on  either  party.  They  may  enter  into 
and  dissolve  it  as  they  like.    In  fact,  this  relationship  dif- 



fers  from  other  liaisons  only  in  its  duration  and  stability. 
Towards  the  end,  when  marriage  actually  approaches,  the 
element  of  personal  responsibility  and  obligation  becomes 
stronger.  The  two  now  regularly  cohabit  in  the  same 
house,  and  a  considerable  degree  of  exclusiveness  in  sexual 
matters  is  observed  by  them.  But  they  have  not  yet 
given  up  their  personal  freedom  j  on  the  several  occasions 
of  wider  licence  affianced  couples  are  invariably  separated 
and  each  partner  is  "unfaithful"  with  his  or  her  tempo- 
rary choice.  Even  within  the  village,  in  the  normal 
course,  the  girl  who  is  definitely  going  to  marry  a  par- 
ticular boy  will  bestow  favours  on  other  men,  though  a 
certain  measure  of  decorum  must  be  observed  in  this  5  if 
she  sleeps  out  too  often,  there  will  be  possibly  a  dissolu- 
tion of  the  tie  and  certainly  friction  and  disagreement. 
Neither  boy  nor  girl  may  go  openly  and  flagrantly  with 
other  partners  on  an  amorous  expedition.  Quite  apart 
from  nocturnal  cohabitation,  the  two  are  supposed  to  be 
seen  in  each  other's  company  and  to  make  a  display  of 
their  relationship  in  public.  Any  deviation  from  the 
exclusive  liaison  must  be  decent,  that  is  to  say,  clandes- 
tine. The  relation  of  free  engagement  is  the  natural 
outcome  of  a  series  of  trial  liaisons,  and  the  appropriate 
preliminary  test  of  marriage. 

THE    bachelors'    HOUSE 

The  most  important  feature  of  this  mode  of  steering 
towards  marriage,  through   gradually  lengthening   and 



strengthening  intimacies,  is  an  institution  which  might  be 
called  "the  limited  bachelors'  house,"  and  which,  indeed, 
suggests  at  first  sight  the  presence  of  a  "group  concu- 
binage." It  is  clear  that  in  order  to  enable  pairs  of  lovers 
permanently  to  cohabit,  some  building  is  needed  which 
will  afford  them  seclusion.  We  have  seen  the  makeshift 
arrangements  of  children  and  the  more  comfortable,  but 
not  yet  permanent  love-nests  of  adolescent  boys  and  girls, 
and  it  is  obvious  that  the  lasting  liaisons  of  youth  and 
adult  girls  require  some  special  institution,  more  defi- 
nitely established,  more  physically  comfortable,  and  at 
the  same  time  having  the  approval  of  custom. 

To  meet  this  need,  tribal  custom  and  etiquette  offer 
accommodation  and  privacy  in  the  form  of  the  hukuma- 
tulay  the  bachelors'  and  unmarried  girls'  house  of  which 
mention  has  already  been  made  (see  pis.  20  and  21).  In 
this  a  limited  number  of  couples,  some  two,  three,  or 
four,  live  for  longer  or  shorter  periods  together  in  a 
temporary  community.  It  also  and  incidentally  offers 
shelter  for  younger  couples  if  they  want  amorous  pri- 
vacy for  an  hour  or  two. 

We  must  now  give  some  more  detailed  attention  to 
this  institution,  for  it  is  extremely  important  and  highly 
significant  from  many  points  of  view.  We  must  consider 
the  position  of  the  houses  in  the  village,  their  internal 
arrangements  and  the  manner  in  which  life  within  the 
hukufnatula  shapes  itself. 

In  the  description  of  the  typical  village  in  the  Tro- 
briands  (ch.  i,  sec.  2),  attention  was  drawn  to  its  schematic 
division  into  several  parts.     This  division  expresses  cer- 



tain  sociological  rules  and  regularities.  As  we  have  seen, 
there  is  a  vague  association  between  the  central  place  and 
the  male  life  of  the  community  5  between  the  street  and 
feminine  activities.  Again,  all  the  houses  of  the  inner 
row,  which  consists  principally  of  storehouses  (pis.  10 
and  82),  are  subject  to  certain  taboos,  especially  to  the 
taboo  of  cooking,  which  is  believed  to  be  inimical  to  the 
stored  yam.  The  outer  ring,  on  the  other  hand,  consists 
of  household  dwellings,  and  there  cooking  is  allowed 
(pis.  4  and  5).  With  this  distinction  is  associated  the 
fact  that  all  the  establishments  of  married  people  have 
to  stand  in  the  outer  ring,  whereas  a  bachelor's  house  may 
be  allowed  among  the  storehouses  in  the  middle.  The 
inner  row  thus  consists  of  yam-houses  {hwayma)^  per- 
sonal huts  of  a  chief  and  his  kinsmen  {Usiga)  (pi.  i),  and 
bachelors'  houses  {hukumatuld) ,  The  outer  ring  is  made 
up  of  matrimonial  homes  {bulaviyaka)^  closed  yam-houses 
{sokwaypa^j  and  widows'  or  widowers'  houses  {hwala 
nakaka^u).  The  main  distinction  between  the  two  rings 
is  the  taboo  on  cooking.  A  young  chief's  I'lsiga  (personal 
hut)  is  as  a  rule  used  also  to  accommodate  other  youths 
and  thus  becomes  a  hukumatula  with  all  that  this  implies 
(pi.  20). 

At  present  there  are  five  bachelors'  establishments  in 
Omarakana,  and  four  in  the  adjoining  village  of  Kasana'i. 
Their  number  has  greatly  diminished  owing  to  missionary 
influence.  Indeed,  for  fear  of  being  singled  out,  admon- 
ished and  preached  at,  the  owners  of  some  hukumatula 
now  erect  them  in  the  outer  ring,  where  they  are  less 
conspicuous.     Some  ten  years  ago  my  informants  could 



count  as  many  as  fifteen  bachelors'  homes  in  both  villages, 
and  my  oldest  acquaintances  remember  the  time  when 
there  were  some  thirty.  This  dwindling  in  number  is 
due,  of  course,  partly  to  the  enormous  decrease  of  popu- 
lation, and  only  partly  to  the  fact  that  nowadays  some 
bachelors  live  with  their  parents,  some  in  widowers' 
houses,  and  some  in  the  missionary  compounds.  But 
whatever  the  reason,  it  is  needless  to  say  that  this  state 
of  affairs  does  not  enhance  true  sex  morality. 

The  internal  arrangements  of  a  bukumatula  are  simple. 
The  furniture  consists  almost  exclusively  of  bunks  with 
mat  coverings.  Since  the  inmates  lead  their  life  in  asso- 
ciation with  other  households  in  the  day-time,  and  keep 
all  their  working  implements  in  other  houses,  the  inside 
of  a  typical  bukiunatula  is  strikingly  bare.  It  lacks  the 
feminine  touch,  the  impression  of  being  really  inhabited. 

In  such  an  interior  the  older  boys  and  their  temporary 
mistresses  live  together.  Each  male  owns  his  own  bunk 
and  regularly  uses  it.  When  a  couple  dissolve  their 
liaison,  it  is  the  girl  who  moves,  as  a  rule,  to  find  another 
sleeping-place  with  another  sweetheart.  The  bukumatula 
is,  usually,  owned  by  the  group  of  boys  who  inhabit  it, 
one  of  them,  the  eldest,  being  its  titular  owner.  I  was 
told  that  sometimes  a  man  would  build  a  house  as  a 
bukumatula  for  his  daughter,  and  that  in  olden  days 
there  used  to  be  unmarried  people's  houses  owned  and 
tenanted  by  girls.  I  never  met,  however,  any  actual 
instance  of  such  an  arrangement. 

At  first  sight,  as  I  have  said,  the  institution  of  the 
bukumatula  might  appear  as  a  sort  of  "Group  Marriage" 



or  at  least  "Group  Concubinage,"  but  analysis  shows  it 
to  be  nothing  of  the  kind.  Such  wholesale  terms  are 
always  misleading,  if  we  allow  them  to  carry  an  extrane- 
ous implication.  To  call  this  institution  "Group  Concu- 
binage" would  lead  to  misunderstanding  5  for  it  must  be 
remembered  that  we  have  to  deal  with  a  number  of  cou- 
ples who  sleep  in  a  common  house,  each  in  an  exclusive 
liaison,  and  not  with  a  group  of  people  all  living  promis- 
cuously together  j  there  is  never  an  exchange  of  partners, 
nor  any  poaching  nor  "complaisance."  In  fact,  a  special 
code  of  honour  is  observed  within  the  bukumatula^  which 
makes  an  inmate  much  more  careful  to  respect  sexual 
rights  within  the  house  than  outside  it.  The  word  kaylasiy 
indicating  sexual  trespass,  would  be  used  of  one  who  of- 
fended against  this  code  3  and  I  was  told  that  "a  man 
should  not  do  it,  because  it  is  very  bad,  like  adultery  with 
a  friend's  wife." 

Within  the  hukumatula  a  strict  decorum  obtains.  The 
inmates  never  indulge  in  orgiastic  pastimes,  and  it  is  con- 
sidered bad  form  to  watch  another  couple  during  their 
love-making.  I  was  told  by  my  young  friends  that  the 
rule  is  either  to  wait  till  all  the  others  are  asleep,  or  else 
for  all  the  pairs  of  a  house  to  undertake  to  pay  no  atten- 
tion to  the  rest.  I  could  find  no  trace  of  any  "voyeur" 
interest  taken  by  the  average  boy,  nor  any  tendency  to 
exhibitionism.  Indeed,  when  I  was  discussing  the  posi- 
tions and  technique  of  the  sexual  act,  the  statement  was 
volunteered  that  there  are  specially  unobtrusive  ways  of 
doing  it  "so  as  not  to  wake  up  the  other  people  in  the 



Of  course,  two  lovers  living  together  in  a  hukumatula 
are  not  bound  to  each  other  by  any  ties  valid  in  tribal 
law  or  imposed  by  custom.  They  forgather  under  the 
spell  of  personal  attraction,  are  kept  together  by  sexual 
passion  or  personal  attachment,  and  part  at  will.  The 
fact  that  in  due  course  a  permanent  liaison  often  develops 
out  of  a  temporary  one  and  ends  in  marriage  is  due  to  a 
complexity  of  causes,  which  we  shall  consider  later  j  but 
even  such  a  gradually  strengthening  liaison  is  not  bind- 
ing until  marriage  is  contracted.  Bukumatula  relation- 
ships, as  such,  impose  no  legal  tie. 

Another  important  point  is  that  the  pair's  community 
of  interest  is  limited  to  the  sexual  relation  only.  The 
couple  share  a  bed  and  nothing  else.  In  the  case  of  a  per- 
manent liaison  about  to  lead  to  marriage,  they  share  it 
regularly  3  but  they  never  have  meals  together 3  there  are 
no  services  to  be  mutually  rendered,  they  have  no  obli- 
gation to  help  each  other  in  any  way,  there  is,  in  short, 
nothing  which  would  constitute  a  common  menage.  Only 
seldom  can  a  girl  be  seen  in  front  of  a  bachelors'  house 
as  in  plate  21,  and  this  as  a  rule  means  that  she  is  very 
much  at  home  there,  that  there  has  been  a  liaison  of 
long  standing  and  that  the  two  are  going  to  be  married 
soon.  This  must  be  clearly  realized,  since  such  words  as 
"liaison"  and  "concubinage,"  in  the  European  use,  usually 
imply  a  community  of  household  goods  and  interests.  In 
the  French  language,  the  expression  vrure  en  menage^ 
describing  typical  concubinage,  implies  a  shared  domestic 
economy,  and  other  phases  of  life  in  common,  besides  sex. 
In  Kiriwina  this  phrase  could  not  be  correctly  applied  to 
a  couple  living  together  in  the  hukumatula. 



In  the  Trobriands  two  people  about  to  be  married  must 
never  have  a  meal  in  common.  Such  an  act  would  greatly 
shock  the  moral  susceptibility  of  a  native,  as  well  as  his 
sense  of  propriety.  To  take  a  girl  out  to  dinner  without 
having  previously  married  her — a  thing  permitted  in  Eu- 
rope— ^would  be  to  disgrace  her  in  the  eyes  of  a  Tro- 
briander.  We  object  to  an  unmarried  girl  sharing  a  man's 
bed — the  Trobriander  would  object  just  as  strongly  to 
her  sharing  his  meal.  The  boys  never  eat  within,  or  in 
front  of,  the  bukumatulay  but  always  join  their  parents 
or  other  relatives  at  every  meal. 

The  institution  of  the  hukumatula  is,  therefore,  char- 
acterized by:  (i)  individual  appropriation,  the  partners 
of  each  couple  belonging  exclusively  to  one  another  j 
(2)  strict  decorum  and  absence  of  any  orgiastic  or  las- 
civious display 5  (3)  the  lack  of  any  legally  binding  ele- 
ment 5  (4)  the  exclusion  of  any  other  community  of  in- 
terest between  a  pair,  save  that  of  sexual  cohabitation. 

Having  described  the  liaisons  which  lead  directly  to 
marriage,  we  end  our  survey  of  the  various  stages  of 
sexual  life  previous  to  wedlock.  But  we  have  not  ex- 
hausted the  subject — ^we  have  simply  traced  the  normal 
course  of  sexuality  and  that  in  its  main  outlines  only. 
We  have  yet  to  consider  those  licensed  orgies  to  which 
reference  has  already  been  made,  to  go  more  deeply  into 
the  technique  and  psychology  of  love-making,  to  examine 
certain  sexual  taboos,  and  to  glance  at  erotic  myth  and 
folk-lore.  But  before  we  deal  with  these  subjects,  it 
will  be  best  to  carry  our  descriptive  narrative  to  its  logical 
conclusion — marriage. 




The  institution  of  marriage  in  the  Trobriands,  which  is 
the  theme  of  this  and  the  following  chapter,  does  not 
present  on  its  surface  any  of  those  sensational  features 
which  would  endear  it  to  the  "survival"  monger,  the 
"origin"  hunter,  and  the  dealer  in  "culture  contacts." 
The  natives  of  our  Archipelago  order  their  marriages  as 
simply  and  sensibly  as  if  they  were  modern  European 
agnostics,  without  fuss,  or  ceremony,  or  waste  of  time 
and  substance.  The  matrimonial  knot,  once  tied,  is  firm 
and  exclusive,  at  least  in  the  ideal  of  tribal  law,  morality, 
and  custom.  As  usual,  however,  ordinary  human  frailties 
play  some  havoc  with  the  ideal.  The  Trobriand  mar- 
riage customs  again  are  sadly  lacking  in  any  such  interest- 
ing relaxations  as  jus  frlnue  noctisy  wife  lending,  wife 
exchange,  or  obligatory  prostitution.  The  personal  rela- 
tions between  the  two  partners,  while  most  illuminating 
as  an  example  of  the  matrilineal  type  of  marriage,  do  not 
present  any  of  those  "savage"  features,  so  lurid,  and  at 
the  same  time  so  attractive  to  the  antiquarian. 

If,  however,  we  dig  beneath  the  surface  and  lay  bare 
the  deeper  aspects  of  this  institution,  we  shall  find  our- 
selves face  to  face  with  certain  facts  of  considerable  im- 
portance and  of  a  somewhat  unusual  type.  We  shall  see 
that  marriage  imposes  a  permanent  economic  obligation 



on  the  members  of  the  wife's  family:  for  they  have  to 
contribute  substantially  towards  the  maintenance  of  the 
new  household.  Instead  of  having  to  buy  his  wife,  the 
man  receives  a  dowry,  often  relatively  as  tempting  as 
that  of  a  modern  European  or  American  heiress.  This 
fact  makes  marriage  among  the  Trobrianders  a  pivot  in 
the  constitution  of  tribal  power,  and  in  the  whole  eco- 
nomic system  3  a  pivot,  indeed,  in  almost  every  institution. 
Moreover,  as  far  as  our  ethnological  records  go,  it  sets 
aside  their  marriage  customs  as  unique  among  those  of 
savage  communities. 

Another  feature  of  Trobriand  marriage  which  is  of 
supreme  importance  to  the  sociologist  is  the  custom  of 
infant  betrothal.  This  is  associated  with  cross-cousin 
marriage,  and  will  be  seen  to  have  interesting  implica- 
tions and  consequences. 


The  gradual  strengthening  of  the  bonds  between  two 
partners  in  a  liaison,  and  the  tendency  to  marry  displayed 
at  a  certain  stage  of  their  mutual  life  in  the  bukumatula, 
have  already  been  described  in  the  foregoing  chapter. 
We  have  seen  how  a  couple  who  have  lived  together  for 
a  time  and  found  that  they  want  to  marry,  as  it  were 
advertise  this  fact  by  sleeping  together  regularly,  by 
showing  themselves  together  in  public,  and  by  remaining 
with  each  other  for  long  periods  at  a  time. 

Now  this  gradual  ripening  of  the  desire  for  marriage 



requires  a  more  minute  consideration  than  we  have  yet 
given  it,  especially  as  it  is  one  of  those  general,  seemingly 
obvious  questions  which  do  not  challenge  attention.  Yet, 
if  in  a  closer  sociological  study  we  try  to  place  it  in  its 
proper  perspective,  and  to  bring  it  into  harmony  with 
other  features  of  native  life,  a  real  problem  at  once  be- 
comes evident.  To  us  marriage  appears  as  the  final  ex- 
pression of  love  and  the  desire  for  union  j  but  in  this  case 
we  have  to  ask  ourselves  why,  in  a  society  where  mar- 
riage adds  nothing  to  sexual  freedom,  and,  indeed,  takes 
a  great  deal  away  from  it,  where  two  lovers  can  possess 
each  other  as  long  as  they  like  without  legal  obligation, 
they  still  wish  to  be  bound  in  marriage.  And  this  is  a 
question  to  which  the  answer  is  by  no  means  obvious. 

That  there  is  a  clear  and  spontaneous  desire  for  mar- 
riage, and  that  there  is  a  customary  pressure  towards  it, 
are  two  separate  facts  about  which  there  can  be  not  the 
slightest  doubt.  For  the  first  there  are  the  unambiguous 
statements  of  individuals — ^that  they  married  because  they 
liked  the  idea  of  a  life-long  bond  to  that  particular  per- 
son— and  for  the  second,  the  expression  of  public  opinion, 
that  certain  people  are  well  suited  to  each  other  and 
should  therefore  marry. 

I  came  across  a  number  of  cases  in  which  I  could  ob- 
serve this  desire  for  marriage  developing  over  a  prolonged 
period.  When  I  came  to  Omarakana,  I  found  several 
couples  engaged  to  be  married.  The  second  youngest 
brother  of  Namwana  Guya'u,  Kalogusa  (pi.  22),  had 
been  previously  engaged  to  Dabugera,  a  girl  of  the 
highest  rank,  his  father's  sister's  daughter's  daughter  (i.e. 



the  matrilineal  grand-niece  of  To'uluwa,  the  present 
chief  and  father  of  Kalogusa,  see  below,  sec.  5).  Dur- 
ing a  particular  absence  of  her  betrothed,  which  lasted 
for  a  year,  the  girl  married  another  man.  On  his  return, 
Kalogusa  consoled  himself  by  upsetting  the  engagement 
of  his  elder  brother,  Yobukwa'u,  and  taking  the  latter's 
betrothed,  Isepuna,  for  himself.  These  two,  Kalogusa 
and  Isepuna  were  very  fond  of  each  other;  they  were 
always  together,  and  the  boy  was  very  jealous.  The 
elder  brother  did  not  take  his  loss  very  seriously;  he 
started  a  liaison  with  another  girl,  rather  plain,  lazy, 
trained  in  a  Mission,  and  altogether  unsatisfactory.  Both 
brothers  married  their  fiancees  a  few  months  after  I  be- 
came acquainted  with  them  (see  pi.  4,  where  Kalogusa 
is  seen  standing  near  the  hut  and  Yobukwa'u  in  the  centre, 
each  behind  his  wife). 

Another  man,  Ulo  Kadala,  one  of  the  less  privileged 
sons  of  the  chief,  was  deeply  enamoured  of  a  girl  whose 
people,  however,  did  not  approve  of  the  match.  When 
I  returned  again  after  two  years,  these  two  were  still  not 
married,  and  I  had  an  opportunity  of  witnessing  the 
man's  culminating  failure  to  bring  about  the  wedding. 
I  often  received  confidences  from  boys  longing  to  marry 
and  faced  by  some  obstacle.  Some  of  them  hoped  to 
obtain  material  help  from  me,  others  to  be  backed  by  the 
white  man's  authority.  It  was  clear  that,  in  all  such 
cases,  the  pair  were  already  living  sexually  with  each 
other,  but  that  the  thing  which  they  specially  desired 
was  marriage.  A  great  friend  of  mine,  Monakewo,  had 
a  long  and  lasting  intrigue  with  Dabugera,  the  niece  of 



To'uluwa  just  mentioned,  who  by  that  time  had  divorced 
her  first  husband.  He  knew  that  he  would  never  be  able 
to  marry  her,  for  her  rank  was  too  high  for  him,  and  he 
was  genuinely  unhappy  on  this  account. 

Such  instances  show  clearly  that  young  people  want  to 
marry,  even  when  they  already  possess  each  other  sex- 
ually, and  that  the  state  of  marriage  has  real  charm  for 
them.  But  before  I  could  entirely  understand  all  the 
reasons  and  motives  for  this  desire,  I  had  to  grasp  the 
complexities  and  deeper  aspects  of  the  institution,  and  its 
relation  to  other  elements  in  the  social  system. 

The  first  thing  to  be  realized  is  that  the  Trobriander 
has  no  full  status  in  social  life  until  he  is  married.  As 
we  saw  in  the  table  of  age  designations,  the  current  term 
for  a  man  in  the  prime  of  life  is  tovavaygile  (married 
man).  A  bachelor  has  no  household  of  his  own,  and  is 
debarred  from  many  privileges.  There  are,  in  fact,  no 
unmarried  men  of  mature  age,  except  idiots,  incurable 
invalids,  old  widowers  and  albinos.  Several  men  were 
widowed  during  my  stay  in  the  Islands,  and  others  were 
deserted  by  their  wives.  The  former  remarried  almost 
as  soon  as  their  mourning  was  over,  the  latter  as  soon  as 
their  attempts  at  reconciliation  had  proved  fruitless. 

The  same  applies  to  women.  Provided  she  is  at  all 
sexually  tolerable,  a  widow  or  divorcee  will  not  have  long 
to  wait.  Once  released  from  mourning,  a  widow  again 
becomes  marriageable.  She  may  sometimes  delay  a  lit- 
tle, in  order  to  enjoy  the  sexual  freedom  of  her  unmar- 
ried state,  but  such  conduct  will  ultimately  draw  on  her 
the  censure  of  public  opinion,  and  a  growing  reputation 



for  "immorality" — ^that  is  disregard  of  tribal  usage — ^will 
force  her  to  choose  a  new  mate. 

Another  very  important  reason  for  marriage,  from  the 
man's  point  of  view,  is  economic  advantage.  Marriage 
brings  with  it  a  considerable  yearly  tribute  in  staple  food, 
given  to  the  husband  by  the  wife's  family.  This  obliga- 
tion is  perhaps  the  most  important  factor  in  the  whole 
social  mechanism  of  Trobriand  society.  On  it,  through 
the  institution  of  rank  and  through  his  privilege  of  po- 
lygamy, rests  the  authority  of  the  chief,  and  his  power 
to  finance  all  ceremonial  enterprises  and  festivities.  Thus 
a  man,  especially  if  he  be  of  rank  and  importance,  is  com- 
pelled to  marry,  for,  apart  from  the  fact  that  his  eco- 
nomic position  is  strengthened  by  the  income  received 
from  his  wife's  family,  he  obtains  his  full  social  status 
only  by  entering  the  group  of  tovavaygile. 

There  is,  further,  the  natural  inclination  of  a  man  past 
his  first  youth  to  have  a  house  and  a  household  of  his 
own.  The  services  rendered  by  a  woman  to  her  husband 
are  naturally  attractive  to  a  man  of  such  an  agej  his 
craving  for  domesticity  has  developed,  while  his  desire 
for  change  and  amorous  adventure  has  died  down. 
Moreover,  a  household  means  children,  and  the  Tro- 
briander  has  a  natural  longing  for  these.  Although  not 
considered  of  his  own  body  nor  as  continuing  his  line, 
they  yet  give  him  that  tender  companionship  for  which, 
when  he  reaches  twenty-five  or  thirty,  he  begins  to  crave. 
He  has  become  used,  it  should  be  remembered,  to  play- 
ing with  his  sister's  children  and  with  those  of  other  rela- 
tives or  neighbours. 



These  are  the  reasons — social,  economic,  practical  and 
sentimental — which  urge  a  man  towards  marriage.  And 
last,  though  not  least,  personal  devotion  to  a  woman  and 
the  promise  of  prolonged  companionship  with  one  to 
whom  he  is  attached,  and  with  whom  he  has  sexually 
lived,  prompt  him  to  make  certain  of  her  by  means  of  a 
permanent  tie,  which  shall  be  binding  under  tribal  law. 

The  woman,  who  has  no  economic  inducement  to 
marry,  and  who  gains  less  in  comfort  and  social  status 
than  the  man,  is  mainly  influenced  by  personal  affection 
and  the  desire  to  have  children  in  wedlock. 

This  personal  motive  comes  out  very  strongly  in  the 
course  of  love  affairs  which  do  not  run  smoothly,  and 
brings  us  from  the  reasons  for  marriage  in  general  to  the 
motives  which  govern  the  individual's  particular  choice. 

In  this  matter  it  must  ifirst  be  realized  that  the  choice 
is  limited  from  the  outset.  A  number  of  girls  are  ex- 
cluded completely  from  a  man's  matrimonial  horizon, 
namely  those  who  belong  to  the  same  totemic  class  (see 
ch.  xiii,  sec.  5).  Furthermore,  there  are  certain  endoga- 
mous  restrictions,  though  these  are  by  no  means  so  pre- 
cisely defined  as  those  imposed  by  exogamy.  Endogamy 
enjoins  marriage  within  the  same  political  area,  that  is 
within  some  ten  to  twelve  villages  of  the  same  district. 
The  rigidity  of  this  rule  depends  very  much  on  the  par- 
ticular district.  For  instance,  one  area  in  the  north-west 
corner  of  the  island  is  absolutely  endogamous,  for  its  in- 
habitants are  so  despised  by  the  other  Islanders  that  the 
latter  would  not  dream  either  of  marrying  or  of  having 
sexual  relations  within  it.     Again,  the  members  of  the 



most  aristocratic  province  of  Kiriwina  seldom  marry  out- 
side their  own  district,  except  into  the  neighbouring  island 
of  Kitava,  or  into  certain  eminent  families  from  one  or 
two  outside  villages  (see  also  ch.  xiii,  sec.  5). 

Even  within  this  limited  geographical  area,  there  are 
further  restrictions  on  the  choice  of  a  mate,  and  these  are 
due  to  rank.  Thus,  members  of  the  highest  sub-clan, 
the  Tabalu,  and  more  especially  their  women,  would  not 
marry  into  a  sub-clan  of  very  low  caste,  and  a  certain 
correspondence  in  nobility  is  considered  desirable  even  in 
marriage  between  less  important  people. 

It  follows  that  choice  must  be  made  from  among  per- 
sons who  are  not  of  the  same  clan,  who  are  not  widely 
different  in  rank,  who  reside  within  the  convenient  geo- 
graphical area,  and  who  are  of  a  suitable  age.  In  this 
limited  field,  however,  there  is  still  sufficient  freedom  of 
selection  to  allow  of  manages  d^atnour^  de  raison,  et  de 
convenance;  and,  as  with  Kalogusa  and  Isepuna  of  whom 
I  have  spoken,  individual  preference  and  love  are  often 
the  determining  factors  of  choice.  And  many  other  mar- 
ried couples,  whom  I  knew  well  personally,  had  been 
governed  in  their  choice  by  the  same  motive.  This  could 
be  gathered  from  their  history,  and  from  the  happy, 
harmonious  tone  of  their  common  life. 

There  are  also  fnariages  de  convenance^  where  wealth, 
that  is  the  quantity  of  yams  which  a  girl's  family  can  pro- 
vide, or  pedigree,  or  status  has  determined  the  choice. 
Such  considerations  have,  of  course,  a  special  importance 
in  marriage  by  infant  betrothal,  of  which  we  shall  speak 




Permanent  liaisons  which  are  on  the  point  of  ripening 
into  marriage  become  known  and  are  talked  about  in  the 
village,  and  now  the  girl's  family,  who,  so  far,  have  taken 
no  interest  in  her  love  aflFairs,  who  have,  indeed,  kept 
ostentatiously  aloof,  must  face  the  fact  about  to  be  ac- 
complished, and  make  up  their  minds  whether  or  no  they 
will  approve  it.  The  man's  family,  on  the  other  hand, 
need  show  little  interest  in  a  matter  in  which  they  have 
practically  no  say.  A  man  is  almost  entirely  independent 
with  regard  to  matrimony,  and  his  marriage,  which  will 
be  a  matter  of  constant  and  considerable  effort  and  worry 
to  his  wife's  family,  will  continue  to  lie  completely  out- 
side the  sphere  of  his  own  people's  concerns. 

It  is  remarkable  that,  of  all  the  girl's  family,  the  per- 
son who  has  most  to  say  about  her  marriage,  although 
legally  he  is  not  reckoned  as  her  kinsman  (veyola)^  is  her 
father.  I  was  astonished  when  this  information  was 
given  to  me  early  in  the  course  of  my  field  work,  but  it 
was  fully  confirmed  later  on  by  observation.  This  para- 
doxical state  of  affairs  becomes  less  incomprehensible, 
however,  if  we  bring  it  into  relation  with  certain  rules  of 
morals  and  etiquette,  and  with  the  economic  aspect  of 
marriage.  One  would  naturally  expect  a  girl's  brothers 
and  maternal  kinsmen  to  take  the  most  important  part  in 
deliberations  concerning  her  marriage,  but  the  strict  taboo 
which  rules  that  the  brother  must  have  nothing  at  all  to 


do  with  the  love  affairs  of  his  sister,  and  her  other  ma- 
ternal kinsmen  but  little,  debars  them  from  any  control 
over  her  matrimonial  plans. 

Thus,  although  her  mother's  brother  is  her  legal 
guardian,  and  her  own  brothers  will  in  the  future  oc- 
cupy the  same  position  with  regard  to  her  own  household, 
they  must  all  remain  passive  until  the  marriage  is  an 
accomplished  fact.  The  father,  say  the  natives,  acts  in 
this  matter  as  the  spokesman  of  the  mother,  who  is  the 
proper  person  to  deliberate  upon  her  daughter's  love  in- 
trigues and  marriage.  It  will  also  be  seen  that  the  father 
is  closely  concerned  in  the  work  of  his  sons  from  the  eco- 
nomic standpoint,  and  that,  after  the  marriage  of  their 
sister,  these  will  have  to  divide  the  fruits  of  their  labour 
between  her  and  their  mother,  instead  of,  as  previously, 
giving  them  all  to  the  parental  household.  When  two 
lovers  have  decided  on  marriage,  the  young  man  becomes 
assiduous  in  his  attentions  to  his  sweetheart's  family,  and 
perhaps  her  father  will,  on  his  own  initiative,  say:  "You 
sleep  with  my  child:  very  well,  marry  her."  As  a  matter 
of  fact,  if  the  family  are  well  disposed  to  the  youth,  they 
will  always  take  this  initiative  either  by  such  a  direct  dec- 
laration or  else  by  asking  him  for  small  gifts,  an  equally 
unambiguous  indication  that  he  is  accepted. 

When  the  family  are  definitely  opposed  to  the  match 
and  give  no  sign  of  goodwill,  the  boy  may  take  the  ini- 
tiative and  plead  on  his  own  behalf.  If  he  is  refused  it 
may  be  either  because  he  is  of  too  low  a  rank,  or  because 
he  is  notoriously  lazy,  and  would  be  too  great  a  drag  on 
his  future  relatives-in-law,  or  else  because  the  girl  is  in- 



tended  for  someone  else.  After  such  a  refusal,  the  pair 
may  relinquish  their  plans,  or,  if  they  are  strong  enough 
to  fight  the  matter  out,  they  may  try  to  bring  about  their 
marriage  in  the  teeth  of  opposition.  If  they  decide  to  do 
this,  the  bride  stays  in  her  lover's  house  (that  is,  in  his 
parents'  house),  as  if  she  were  really  married,  and  the 
news  is  spread  abroad  that  the  man  is  attempting  to  wed 
her  in  spite  of  her  people.  Sometimes  the  two  actually 
elope  and  go  to  another  village  in  the  hope  of  impressing 
and  mortifying  their  hard-hearted  opponents.  In  any 
case,  they  stay  indoors  all  day,  and  do  not  eat  any  food 
to  see  if  this  will  soften  the  hearts  of  her  family.  This 
abstention  from  the  common  meal,  which,  as  we  know, 
constitutes  a  definite  declaration  of  marriage,  shows  that 
they  are  still  waiting  for  her  family's  consent. 

In  the  meantime,  the  boy's  father  or  maternal  uncle 
may  go  as  an  ambassador  to  the  girl's  family  and  offer 
them  a  gift  of  high  value  to  melt  their  resistance.  Under 
this  combined  pressure  the  latter  may  give  in,  and  send 
the  customary  present  to  the  young  couple.  If,  on  the 
other  hand,  they  do  not  relent,  they  repair  in  great  num- 
bers to  the  spot  where  the  girl  stays  with  the  youth  and 
"pull  her  back,"  a  customary  and  technical  expression,  but 
one  which  also  indicates  what  actually  occurs.  The  boy's 
relatives  and  friends  may  possibly  oppose  the  "pulling 
back,"  and  then  a  scuffle  will  ensue.  But  the  girl's  people 
always  have  the  whip  hand,  for,  as  long  as  they  withhold 
their  consent,  nobody  can  force  them  to  supply  the  pair 
with  food,  and  without  this  the  household  is  soon  dis- 
solved in  the  natural  course. 



A  few  examples  of  such  abortive  marriage  occurred  in 
my  own  experience.  Mekala'i,  a  boy  whom  I  often  used 
as  a  temporary  servant,  became  enamoured  of  Bodulela, 
a  really  attractive  young  girl,  and  the  step-daughter  of  the 
headman  of  Kabululo,  who,  as  was  well  known  in  the  vil- 
lage, lived  incestuously  with  her  (see  ch.  xiii,  sec.  6). 
Mekala'i  made  an  heroic  attempt  to  abduct  and  retain  her 
in  his  parents'  house  in  Kasana'i,  but  he  had  no  wealthy 
relatives  or  powerful  friends  to  back  him  up.  On  the 
first  afternoon  of  their  joint  life,  the  headman  of  Kabu- 
lulo simply  walked  over  to  Kasana'i,  took  his  abashed  and 
truant  step-daughter  by  the  hand,  and  led  her  back  to  his 
own  house  j  that  was  the  end. 

Another  and  a  more  complicated  case  was  that  of  Ulo 
Kadala,  who  was  mentioned  in  the  last  section.  He 
wooed  a  girl  during  my  first  stay  in  Omarakana  and  was 
refused  by  her  parents.  The  couple  attempted  to  settle 
down  to  married  life,  but  the  family  pulled  the  girl  back 
by  force.  Ulo  Kadala  still  continued  his  faithful  court- 
ship. On  my  second  visit  to  Omarakana  two  years  later, 
the  girl  came  to  the  village  once  more  and  took  up  her 
abode  in  the  house  of  Isupwana,  the  adoptive  mother  of 
Ulo  Kadala,  a  stone's  throw  from  my  tent.  This  second 
attempt  at  marriage  lasted,  I  think,  for  a  day  or  two, 
while  To'uluwa  was  making  some  not  very  energetic  ef- 
forts towards  reconciliation.  One  afternoon  the  parents 
arrived  from  the  neighbouring  village,  and  laid  hold  of 
the  girl  and  unceremoniously  carried  her  away.  The  pro- 
cession passed  in  front  of  my  tent,  the  wailing  girl  led  by 
her  father  and  followed  by  vociferous  partisans,  wha 



hurled  abuse  at  each  other.  The  girPs  people  said  quite 
explicitly  what  they  thought  of  Ulo  Kadala,  of  his  lazi- 
ness,  his  incapacity  for  doing  anything  properly,  and  his 
well-known  greed.  "We  do  not  want  you,  we  shall  not 
give  her  any  food."  This  argument  clinched  the  refusal, 
and  that  was  the  last  attempt  which  the  two  young  peo- 
ple made. 

When  the  parents  are  well  disposed  and  signify  their 
pleasure  in  the  match  by  asking  the  intended  for  a  small 
present,  the  engaged  couple  must  still  wait  for  a  little  in 
order  to  give  necessary  time  for  the  preparations.  But 
one  day  the  girl  instead  of  returning  in  the  morning  to 
her  parents'  house,  will  remain  with  her  husband,  take 
her  meals  in  the  house  of  his  parents  and  accompany  him 
throughout  the  day.  The  word  goes  round:  "Isepuna  is 
already  married  to  Kalogusa."  Such  proceedings  consti- 
tute the  act  of  marriage.  There  is  no  other  rite,  no  other 
ceremony  to  mark  the  beginnings  of  wedlock.  From  the 
morning  on  which  she  has  remained  with  the  bridegroom, 
the  girl  is  married  to  him,  provided,  of  course,  the  con- 
sent of  the  parents  has  been  given.  Without  this,  as  we 
have  seen,  the  act  constitutes  only  an  attempt  at  marriage. 
Though  utterly  simple,  this  act  of  remaining  with  the 
man,  of  openly  sharing  a  meal  with  him,  and  of  staying 
under  his  roof,  has  a  legally  binding  force.  It  is  the  con- 
ventional public  declaration  of  marriage.  It  has  serious 
consequences,  for  it  changes  the  life  of  the  two  concerned, 
and  it  imposes  considerable  obligations  on  the  girl's  fam- 
ily, obligations  associated  in  turn  with  counter-obligations 
on  the  part  of  the  bridegroom. 




This  simple  declaration  of  marriage  is  followed  by 
that  exchange  of  gifts  which  is  so  typical  of  any  social 
transaction  in  the  Trobriands.  Each  gift  is  definite  in 
nature  and  quantity,  each  has  to  take  its  proper  place  in 
a  series  and  each  is  reciprocated  by  some  corresponding 
contribution.  The  subjoined  table  will  help  to  make 
clear  the  description  which  follows  it: 

Marriage  Gifts 

!i.  Katuvila — cooked  yams,  brought  in  baskets  by  the  girl's 
parents  to  the  boy's  family. 
3.  Pepe'i — several  baskets  of  uncooked  yams,  one  given  by 
each  of  the  girl's  relatives  to  the  boy's  parents. 
3.  Kaykaboma — cooked  vegetables,  each  member  of  the  girl's 
family  bringing  one  platter  to  the  boy's  house. 
/4.  Mapula   Kaykaboma — repayment    of   gift    (3),    given    in 
,,         j  exactly  the  same  form  and  material  by  the  boy's  rela- 

■p__p     <  tives  to  the  girl's  family. 

I  5.  Takivalela  Pepe'i — valuables  given  by  the  boy's  father  in 
^  repayment  of  gift  (2)   to  the  girl's  father. 

TTT         (  ^'  ^^^^^^f^^ — ^   large   quantity  of  yam-food  offered   at  the 

^ g      ■<  first  harvest  after  the  marriage  to  the  boy  by  the  girl's 

(  family. 

(7.  Saykivala — gift  of  fish  brought  by  the  boy  to  his  wife's 

IV        )  father  in  repayment  of  (6). 

B — G     \  8.  Takivalela  Filakuria — a  gift  of  valuables  handed  by  the 

(^  boy's  father  to  the  girl's  father  in  payment  of  (6). 

G — ^B  (girl  to  boy),  gifts  from  the  girl's  family;  B — G,  return  gifts  from 
the  boy's  relatives  to  the  girl's. 

The  girl's  family  have  to  make  the  first  offering  to 
signify  their  consent  to  the  marriage.  Since  their  agree- 
ment is  absolutely  essential,  this  gift,  in  conjunction  with 
the  public  declaration  of  the  union  of  the  partners,  con- 



stitutes  marriage.  It  is  a  small  gift,  a  little  cooked  food 
brought  in  baskets  and  offered  by  the  girl's  father  to  the 
boy's  parents.  It  is  set  down  in  front  of  their  house  with 
the  words  kam  katuvila,  "thy  katuvila  gift."  It  must  be 
given  on  the  day  on  which  the  two  remain  together,  or 
on  the  morning  of  the  next  day.  As  we  have  seen,  when 
the  consent  of  the  girl's  family  is  doubtful  the  two  part- 
ners often  abstain  from  food  till  this  gift  is  brought. 

Soon  afterwards,  usually  on  the  same  day,  the  girl's 
relatives  bring  a  bigger  present.  Her  father,  her  ma- 
ternal uncle,  and  her  brothers  who  now  for  the  first  time 
emerge  from  the  inaction  imposed  on  them  by  the  spe- 
cific brother-sister  taboo,  each  bring  a  basket  of  uncooked 
yam  food,  and  offer  it  to  the  boy's  parents.  This  gift  is 
called  fefe^i.  But  even  this  is  not  enough.  A  third  of- 
fering of  food  is  brought  to  the  boy's  parents,  cooked  this 
time  and  carried  on  large  platters,  such  as  can  be  seen  on 
plates  4  and  5.    This  gift  is  called  kaykaboma} 

The  boy's  family  must  not  delay  long  before  they  re- 
ciprocate. The  last  gift,  cooked  food  on  trays,  is  returned 
almost  immediately  and  in  exactly  the  same  form  as  it 
was  received.  A  more  important  gift  follows.  The  boy's 
father  has  already  prepared  certain  valuables  of  the 
vaygu^a  type,  that  is  to  say,  large,  polished  axe-blades  of 
green  stone,  necklaces  of  polished  spondylus  shell  discs, 
and  armlets  made  of  the  conus  shelly  also,  when  the  sec- 

1  The  reader  who  has  grasped  the  complex  psychology  of  ceremonial 
gifts  in  the  kula  and  in  associated  activities  will  understand  the  great 
importance  of  the  exchanges  which  accompany  so  many  social  transac- 
tions in  the  Trobriands.  Cf.  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  espe- 
cially chs.  iii  and  vi. 



ond  gift  o£  uncooked  food  was  brought  to  him  by  the 
girPs  family,  he  made  a  small  distribution  of  it  among  his 
own  relatives,  and  they  in  turn  now  bring  him  other  valu- 
ables to  add  to  his  own.  All  these  he  presents  to  the  girl's 
family  3  he  has  kept  the  baskets  in  which  the  food  was 
brought  to  him  3  he  puts  the  valuables  into  these,  and  they 
are  carried  by  himself  and  his  family  to  the  girl's  house. 
This  gift  is  called  takwalela  fefe^l^  or  "repayment  in  valu- 
ables of  the  fefe*t  gift." 

The  reader  is  perhaps  weary  of  all  these  petty  details, 
but  this  meticulous  absorption  in  small  gifts  and  counter- 
gifts  is  highly  characteristic  of  the  Trobrianders.  They 
are  inclined  to  boast  of  their  own  gifts,  with  which  they 
are  entirely  satisfied,  while  disputing  the  value  and  even 
quarrelling  over  what  they  themselves  receive,  but  they 
regard  these  details  as  most  important  and  observe  them 
scrupulously.  In  the  exchange  of  marriage  gifts,  as  a 
rule,  they  are  less  cantankerous  than  on  other  occasions, 
and  a  more  generous  and  friendly  spirit  prevails.  After 
the  takwalela  fefe^i  there  is  a  long  pause  in  the  exchange 
of  gifts,  which  lasts  until  the  next  harvest.  During  this 
time  and  while  the  couple's  own  dwelling  is  being  built, 
the  wife  usually  remains  with  her  husband  in  his  father's 
house.  At  harvest  time  they  will  receive  the  first  sub- 
stantial gift  due  from  the  girl's  family,  and  of  this  they 
will  themselves  make  a  distribution  by  way  of  payment 
to  those  who  have  helped  in  the  building  of  their  new 

To  resume,  then,  the  girl's  family  give  a  present  of 
considerable  value  at  the  next  harvest,  and  from  then  on 



at  every  harvest  they  will  have  to  help  the  new  house- 
hold with  a  substantial  contribution  of  fresh  yams.  The 
first  present  of  this  sort,  however,  has  a  special  name 
(vilakuria),  and  is  surrounded  by  a  ceremonial  of  its  own. 
Prism-shaped  receptacles  (pwata^i)  sltq  constructed  of 
poles,  in  front  of  the  young  couple's  yam-house  (see  pis. 
23  and  24),  and  the  girPs  family,  after  selecting  a  large 
quantity,  a  hundred,  two  hundred,  or  even  three  hundred 
basketf  uls  of  the  best  yams,  arrange  them  in  these  recep- 
tacles with  a  great  amount  of  ceremony  and  display. 

This  gift  also  must  be  repaid  without  any  too  great 
delay.  Fish  is  considered  a  proper  counter-oflFering.  In 
a  coastal  village,  the  husband  will  embark  with  his  friends 
on  a  fishing  expedition.  If  he  lives  inland,  he  has  to  pur- 
chase the  fish  in  one  of  the  coastal  villages,  paying  for 
them  in  yams. 

The  fish  is  laid  in  front  of  the  girPs  parents'  house, 
with  the  words  ^^Kam  saykwala'^  (thy  saykwala  gift). 
Sometimes,  if  the  young  husband  is  very  rich,  or  else  if 
he  and  his  family  were  not  able  previously  to  repay  the 
pepe^i  present,  a  gift  of  vaygu^a  (valuables)  will  be  given 
at  this  point  in  answer  to  the  first  harvest  oflFering.  This 
is  called  takwalela  vilakuria  (repayment  by  valuables  of 
the  vilakuria  present),  and  closes  the  series  of  initial  mar- 
riage gifts. 

This  series  of  gifts  appears  at  first  sight  unnecessarily 
complicated.  But,  if  we  examine  it  more  closely,  we  find 
that  it  represents  a  continuous  story,  and  is  no  mere  dis- 
connected jumble  of  incident.  In  the  first  place  it  ex- 
presses the  leading  principle  in  the  economic  relation 



which  will  subsequently  obtain  for  the  whole  duration 
of  the  marriage:  that  the  girl's  family  provide  the  newly 
established  household  with  food,  being  occasionally  repaid 
with  valuables.  The  small  initial  gifts  (i,  2,  and  3), 
express  the  consent  of  the  girl's  family,  and  are  a  sort  of 
earnest  of  their  future  and  more  considerable  contribu- 
tions. The  return  offering  of  food  (4),  made  immedi- 
ately by  the  boy's  family,  is  a  characteristically  Trobriand 
answer  to  a  compliment.  And  the  only  really  substantial 
gifts  from  the  bridegroom's  family  to  the  bride's  (5,  or  8, 
or  both)  exert  a  definitely  binding  force  on  the  husband, 
for  if  the  marriage  be  dissolved,  he  does  not  recover  them 
save  in  exceptional  cases.  They  are  about  equivalent  in 
value  to  all  the  other  first  year's  gifts  put  together.  But 
this  present  from  the  husband  must  emphatically  not  be 
considered  as  purchase  money  for  the  bride.  This  idea 
is  utterly  opposed  both  to  the  native  point  of  view  and 
to  the  facts  of  the  case.  Marriage  is  meant  to  confer 
substantial  material  benefits  on  the  man.  These  he  re- 
pays at  rare  intervals  with  a  gift  of  valuables,  and  it  is 
such  a  gift  that  he  has  to  offer  at  the  moment  of  mar- 
riage. It  is  an  anticipation  of  the  benefits  to  follow,  and 
by  no  means  a  price  paid  for  the  bride. 

It  may  be  mentioned  that  not  all  of  this  series  of  gifts 
are  equally  indispensable.  Of  the  first  three,  only  one 
(either  i  or  2)  must  be  given  at  all  costs.  Of  the  rest, 
6  and  7  are  never  omitted,  while  either  5  or  8  is  abso- 
lutely obligatory. 

It  is  necessary,  as  I  have  already  said,  to  enter  into 
such  minute  details  as  these  if  we  would  approximate 



to  the  savage  point  of  view.  Closely  observing  the  care 
and  anxiety  with  which  the  gifts  are  gathered  and  given, 
it  is  possible  to  determine  the  psychology  of  the  acts 
themselves.  Thus  Paluwa,  the  father  of  Isepuna,  worried 
good-humouredly  as  to  how  he  might  collect  sufficient 
food  to  offer  to  a  chief's  son,  his  daughter's  future  hus- 
band j  and  he  discussed  his  troubles  with  me  at  length. 
He  was  faced  by  the  difficulty  of  having  three  daughters 
and  several  female  relatives,  and  only  three  sons.  Every- 
body's working  power  had  already  been  taxed  to  provide 
food  for  the  other  married  daughters.  And  now  Isepuna 
was  going  to  wed  Kalogusa,  a  man  of  high  rank  in  his 
own  right,  and  also  a  son  of  To'uluwa,  the  paramount 
chief.  All  his  people  exerted  themselves  to  the  utmost 
to  produce  as  big  a  crop  as  possible  that  season,  in  order 
to  be  able  to  give  a  fine  vilakuria  present.  And  To'uluwa, 
the  bridegroom's  father,  on  his  side,  revealed  to  me  his 
own  anxiety.  Could  he  provide  a  worthy  counter  gift? 
Times  were  hard,  and  yet  something  fine  had  to  be  given. 
I  inspected  several  of  the  chief's  valuables,  and  discussed 
their  respective  suitability  with  him.  There  was  an  under- 
current of  suggestion,  in  the  conversation  of  both  parties, 
that  some  tobacco  from  the  white  man  would  be  a  much 
appreciated  addition  to  either  gift. 



There  is  another  way  of  arranging  marriages  in  the 
Trobriands  beside  the  ordinary  method  of  courtship,  and 



in  many  respects  the  two  are  in  sharp  contrast  to  each 
other.  Normal  marriage  is  brought  about  by  free  choice, 
by  trialj  and  by  the  gradual  strengthening  of  bonds  which 
assume  a  legal  obligation  only  after  marriage.  In  mar- 
riage by  infant  betrothal,  a  binding  agreement  is  made  by 
the  parents  in  the  children's  infancy  5  the  boy  and  girl 
grow  up  into  the  relationship,  and  find  themselves  bound 
to  each  other  before  they  have  had  an  opportunity  to 
choose  for  themselves. 

The  great  importance  of  this  second  type  of  marriage 
lies  in  the  fact  that  infant  betrothal  is  always  associated 
with  cross-cousin  marriage.  The  two  people  who,  accord- 
ing to  native  ideas,  are  most  suited  for  marriage  with 
each  other — a  man's  son  and  the  daughter  of  his  sister — 
are  betrothed  in  infancy.  When  the  father's  sister's 
daughter  is  too  old  to  be  betrothed  to  her  male  infant 
cousin,  her  daughter  may  replace  her.  By  the  native 
legal  system  the  two  are  equivalent,  for  the  purposes  of 
this  marriage. 

The  significance  of  this  institution  can  be  understood 
only  if  we  return  to  a  consideration  of  the  compromise 
between  father-love  and  matriliny.^  Cross-cousin  mar- 
riage is  an  arrangement  whereby  both  tribal  law,  which 
enjoins  matrilineal  succession,  and  the  promptings  of 
paternal  love,  which  incline  the  father  to  bestow  all  pos- 
sible privileges  on  his  son,  find  equitable  adjustment  and 
adequate  satisfaction. 

Let  us  take  a  concrete  instance.  A  chief,  a  village 
headman — or,   indeed,  any  man   of  rank,  wealth,   and 

^  Cf.  also  Crime  and  Custom^ 



power,  will  give  to  a  favourite  son  all  that  he  can  safely 
alienate  from  his  heirs  j  some  plots  in  the  village  lands, 
privileges  in  fishing  and  hunting,  some  of  the  hereditary- 
magic,  a  position  in  the  kula  exchange,  a  privileged  place 
in  the  canoe  and  precedence  in  dancing.  Often  the  son 
becomes  in  some  sort  his  father's  lieutenant,  performing 
magic  instead  of  him,  leading  the  men  in  tribal  council, 
and  displaying  his  personal  charm  and  influence  on  all 
those  occasions  when  a  man  may  win  the  much-coveted 
butura  (renown).  As  examples  of  this  tendency,  which  I 
have  found  in  every  community  where  there  was  a  chief  of 
outstanding  influence,  we  may  take  the  arrogant  Namwana 
Guya'u,  before  his  banishment  the  leading  figure  in  the 
village  life  of  Omarakana  (see  ch.  i,  sec.  2).  Again,  in 
the  sister  village  of  Kasana'i,  the  chief's  son  Kayla'i,  a 
modest  and  good-natured  fellow,  wielded  the  power  of 
thunder  and  sunshine  in  virtue  of  the  supreme  system  of 
weather-magic  which  his  father  had  imparted  to  him. 
And  the  coastal  villages  of  Kavataria,  Sinaketa,  Tuk- 
wa'ukwa,  each  had  its  leader  in  a  son  of  the  chief.  But 
such  privileged  positions  are  invidious  and  insecure,  even 
while  they  last,  as  the  rightful  heirs  and  owners  in 
matriliny  resent  being  pushed  aside  during  the  lifetime 
of  the  chief  5  and,  in  any  case,  all  such  benefits  cease  with 
the  father's  death.  There  is  only  one  way  by  which  the 
chief  can  establish  his  son  permanently  in  the  village  with 
rights  of  full  citizenship  for  himself  and  his  progeny,  and 
secure  possession  of  all  the  gifts  until  death  j  and  that 
is  by  contracting  the  son  in  paternal  cross-cousin  marriage, 
marriage  with  his  sister's  daughter  or  with  this  daughter's 



daughter.    The  following  diagram  will  help  to  make  the 
genealogy  of  the  relation  clear. 

Diagrammatic  Genealogy  of  Cross-Cousin  Marriage 

Chief  $  =  ==  $  Chief's  sister 

$  Chief's  daughter     Chief's  son  ^  =  $  Chief's  sister's   $  Chief  sister's 
I  daughter  I  son    and    his 

:  Orthodox  cross-cousin  j 

i  marriage  j 

i  heir 

Between  these  j 
< two > J 

marriage  is  not  lawful 

Our  diagrammatical  chief  has  a  sister  j  and  she  has  a 
son,  the  chief's  heir  and  successor,  and  a  daughter,  the 
chief's  niece  by  his  sister,  a  girl  who  will  continue  the 
aristocratic  line.  The  husband  of  this  girl  will  enjoy  a 
very  privileged  position,  into  which  he  will  step  on  the 
day  of  his  marriage.  By  native  law  and  custom  he  will 
have  a  definite  claim  on  his  wife's  brother  or  brothers 
and  other  male  relatives,  who  will  be  obliged  to  give  him 
annual  tribute  of  food,  and  will  be  considered  his  ex- 
officio  allies,  friends,  and  helpers.  He  also  acquires  the 
right  to  live  in  the  village  if  he  choose,  and  to  participate 
in  tribal  affairs  and  in  magic.  It  is  clear,  therefore,  that 
he  will  occupy  practically  the  same  position  as  that  en- 
joyed by  the  chief's  son  during  his  father's  lifetime,  and 



from  which  he  is  ousted  by  the  rightful  heir  at  his  father's 
death.  This  type  of  marriage  difFers  from  the  ordinary 
one  also  in  that  the  husband  comes  to  live  in  his  wife's 
community.  Cross-cousin  marriage  is  thus  matrilocal  in 
contradistinction  to  the  ordinary  patrilocal  usage.^ 

The  obvious  and  natural  solution,  therefore,  of  the 
chief's  difficulty  is  to  marry  his  son  to  his  niece  or  grand- 
niece.  Usually  all  parties  benefit  by  the  transaction.  The 
chief  and  his  son  get  what  they  want  5  the  chief's  niece 
marries  the  most  influential  man  in  the  village,  and  in  so 
doing  confirms  this  influence  j  and  an  alliance  is  established 
between  the  son  of  the  chief  and  his  lawful  heirs  which 
frustrates  the  potential  rivalry  between  them.  The  girl's 
brother  cannot  oppose  the  marriage,  because  of  the  taboo 
(see  ch.  xiii,  sec.  6)  3  nor,  as  it  is  contracted  in  the  chief's 
son's  infancy,  would  he  normally  be  in  a  position  to  do  so. 

Whenever  there  is  a  possibility  of  it,  a  cross-cousin 
marriage  will  always  be  arranged,  a  fact  which  is  well 
illustrated  in  the  family  of  To'uluwa  (see  the  adjacent 

When  Namwana  Guya'u,  the  eldest  son  of  To'uluwa's 
favourite  and  most  aristocratic  wife,  was  born,  there  was 
no  marriageable  girl  available  for  him  in  his  father's 

1 1  think  that  any  man  could  settle  In  his  wife's  community  if  he  wished. 
But  by  doing  so,  he  would  both  degrade  himself  and  suffer  disabilities. 
A  chief's  son,  however,  is  an  exception  owing  to  his  position  in  the  village 
and  his  vested  interests. 



family,  that  is  to  say,  among  To'uluwa's  maternal  kins- 
women. Ibo'una  and  Nakaykwase  were,  by  that  time, 
almost  marriageable  and  could  not  be  affianced  to  a  little 
child,  and  their  daughters  were  yet  unborn.  And  the 
pedigree  shows  no  other  female  in  the  sub-clan  of  the 
Tabalu,  To'uluwa's  matrilineal  lineage.  But  by  the  time 
a  younger  son,  Kalogusa,  was  born  to  To'uluwa,  his 
grand-niece,  Ibo'una,  had  a  small  daughter,  Dabugeraj 
therefore  the  two  were  betrothed.  In  this  case  the  cross- 
cousin  marriage  failed,  for,  as  we  have  seen  (see  above, 
sec.  i),  the  girl  married  another  man  during  her  fiance's 
absence  abroad. 

In  the  same  pedigree  we  can  take  another  example 
from  the  previous  generation.  Purayasi,  the  penultimate 
chief  of  Omarakana,  had  a  son  called  Yowana,  who 
belonged  to  the  same  sub-clan  as  Namwana  Guya'u. 
Yowana  was  a  man  of  great  talent  and  strong  personality  5 
he  was  renowned  for  his  mastery  of  several  systems  of 
important  magic  which  he  performed  for  his  father,  and 
for  his  skill  as  a  gardener,  sailor,  and  dancer.  He  married 
Kadubulami,  Purayasi's  grand-niece,  and  lived  all  his  life 
in  Omarakana  in  the  enjoyment  of  his  personal  privileges. 
He  instructed  his  son,  Bagido'u,  the  present  heir  apparent, 
in  all  his  magical  and  other  accomplishments. 

In  his  turn  Bagido'u  had  a  son  by  his  first  wife,  but  he 
died  in  infancy.  This  child,  soon  after  birth,  had  been 
betrothed  to  an  infant  daughter  of  Bagido'u's  youngest 
sister  Nakaykwase.  Thus,  in  one  small  pedigree,  we  see 
three  cases  of  cross-cousin  marriage  arranged  by  infant 
betrothal.     It  must  be  remembered,  however,  that  this 




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pedigree  includes  the  noblest  family  of  the  chieftains  of 
Omarakana  and  the  sub-clan  Kwoynama  of  Osapola,  both 
regarded  as  especially  suitable  for  entering  into  matri- 
monial alliance. 

Cross-cousin  marriage  is,  undoubtedly,  a  compromise 
between  the  two  ill-adjusted  principles  of  mother-right 
and  father-love^  and  this  is  its  main  raison  cPetre.  The 
natives  are  not,  of  course,  capable  of  a  consistent  theo- 
retical statement  5  but  in  their  arguments  and  formulated 
motives  this  explanation  of  the  why  and  wherefore  of  the 
institution  is  implicit,  in  an  unmistakable  though  piecemeal 
form.  Several  points  of  view  are  expressed  and  reasons 
given  by  them  which  throw  some  further  light  on  their 
ideas,  but  all,  if  pushed  to  a  conclusion,  point  to  the  same 
ultimate  reason  for  cross-cousin  marriage.  Sometimes, 
for  instance,  it  will  be  stated  as  a  rider  to  the  principle 
of  exogamy  that  "the  marriage  between  brother  and  sister 
is  wrong"  ("brother  and  sister"  in  the  extended  sense, 
all  people  of  opposite  sex  and  of  the  same  generation  re- 
lated through  the  mother).  "To  marry  a  tabula  (cross- 
cousin)  is  right  j  the  true  tabula  (the  first  cross-cousin)  is 
the  proper  wife  for  us." 

Let  us  make  clear  one  more  point:  among  all  the  mar- 
riages possible  between  cousins,  only  one  is  lawful  and 
desirable  for  the  Trobriander.  Two  young  people  of 
opposite  sex,  whose  mothers  are  sisters,  are,  of  course, 
subject  to  the  strict  sexual  taboo  which  obtains  between 
brother  and  sister.  A  boy  and  a  girl  who  are  the  children 
of  two  brothers  stand  in  no  special  relation  to  each  other. 
They  may  marry  if  they  like,  but  there  is  no  reason  why 



they  should  5  no  special  custom  or  institution  is  connected 
with  such  a  relationship,  since  in  a  matrilineal  society  it 
is  irrelevant.  Only  a  boy  and  a  girl,  descendants  of  a 
brother  and  sister  respectively,  can  conclude  a  marriage 
which  is  lawful  and  which,  at  the  same  time,  stands  out 
from  mere  haphazard  alliances  3  for  here,  as  we  have  seen, 
a  man  gives  his  own  kinswoman  to  his  son  for  a  wife. 
But  an  important  point  must  here  be  noted:  the  man's  son 
has  to  marry  the  woman's  daughter,  and  not  the  man's 
daughter  the  woman's  son.  Only  in  the  former  combina- 
tion do  the  two  people  call  each  other  tabugUy  a  term 
which  implies  lawfulness  of  sexual  intercourse.  The 
other  couple  joined  by  a  dotted  line  on  the  diagram 
(sec.  4)  stand  in  a  different  relation  according  to  native 
ideas  of  kinship  (see  the  discussion  of  these  kinship  terms 
in  ch.  xiii,  sec.  6).  A  girl  calls  the  son  of  her  father's 
sister  tamagu  "my  father."  Marriage  with  the  real  father 
or  with  the  father's  brother  is  incestuous  and  strictly 
tabooed.  Marriage  with  the  tama  ("father"=father's 
sister's  son)  is  not  incestuous,  but  it  is  viewed  with  dis- 
favour and  happens  only  rarely.  Such  a  marriage  offers 
few  inducements.  A  chief  might  like  his  daughter  to  be 
married  to  another  chief  or  to  a  man  of  rank  in  his  own 
family,  but  she  would  not  thus  acquire  any  specially  high 
or  privileged  position.  On  the  other  hand,  as  his 
daughter  will  have  to  be  supported  by  the  same  men  who 
now  work  for  her  mother,  the  chief's  wife,  he  may  prefer 
for  his  own  sake  to  marry  her  to  a  humbler  and  less  exact- 
ing person  than  his  heir.    It  all  depends  on  his  relations 



with  his  heir,  which  are,  as  we  have  seen,  by  no  means  so 
uniformly  friendly  and  intimate  as  those  with  his  own 

The  advantages  of  cross-cousin  marriage  were  put  to 
me  from  another  point  of  view  by  Bagido'u,  when  I  asked 
him  why  he  had  wanted  his  little  son  Purayasi  to  marry 
Kabwaynaya.  "I  wanted  a  daughter-in-law  who  would 
be  my  real  kinswoman,"  he  said.  "I  wanted,  when  I  got 
old,  to  have  someone  of  my  family  to  look  after  me  5  to 
cook  my  foodj  to  bring  me  my  lime-pot  and  lime-stick,  to 
pull  out  my  grey  hairs.  It  is  bad  to  have  a  stranger  to 
do  that.  When  it  is  someone  of  my  own  people,  I  am 
not  afraid."  His  fear  was,  of  course,  of  sorcery.  It 
should  be  realized  that  since  marriage  is  patrilocal,  and 
since  the  son,  in  the  case  of  important  people,  often  re- 
mains near  the  father,  this  latter  has  good  reasons  to  be 
interested  in  his  daughter-in-law.  Since  she  is  his  kins- 
woman there  is  yet  another  justification  for  his  son's  resi- 
dence in  the  father's  community.  Thus  we  are  brought 
back  to  cross-cousin  marriage  as  the  reconciling  compro- 
mise between  the  claims  of  father-love  and  matriliny. 
The  man  may  have  to  rely,  in  his  old  age,  on  the  atten- 
tions of  his  son  and  his  son's  wife,  but  neither  of  them 
are  his  real  kindred  unless  the  daughter-in-law  is  also  his 
sister's  child.  In  spite  of  his  personal  affection  for  his 
son,  he  prefers  to  have  someone  of  his  own  veyola  (ma- 
ternal kindred)  about  him,  and  this  can  only  be  achieved 
if  the  son  marries  the  right  cross-cousin,  that  is  the  father's 
sister's  daughter  or  her  daughter. 




Now  that  we  have  grasped  the  principles  of  cross- 
cousin  marriage,  a  brief  account  must  be  given  of  the 
steps  and  ceremonies  by  which  it  is  brought  about.  The 
initiative  is  always  taken  by  the  brother,  who,  on  behalf 
of  his  son,  asks  his  sister  for  the  hand  of  her  daughter  in 
marriage.  A  man  has  a  definite  right  to  make  such  a 
request 5  as  the  natives  say:  "Is  he  not  the  kadala  (mater- 
nal uncle)  of  the  girl?  Are  his  sister  and  her  child  not  his 
real  veyola  (maternal  kindred)?  Has  he  not  raised  the 
prigubu  (annual  harvest  contribution)  for  the  house- 

The  request  may  be  made  when  the  son  is  born,  if  his 
sister  has  a  daughter,  or  perhaps  a  granddaughter  (daugh- 
ter's daughter),  who  will  not  be  too  old  to  become  the 
wife  of  the  new-born  infant  later  on.  The  disparity  of 
age  should  never  exceed  two  or  three  years. 

Or  the  boy's  father  may  wait,  and  if  within  ten  years 
or  so  a  girl  is  born  to  his  sister,  he  may  requisition  her  as 
a  future  daughter-in-law.  His  sister  is  not  allowed  to 
refuse  his  application.  Soon  after  the  preliminary  agree- 
ment has  been  concluded,  the  man  has  to  take  a  vaygu^a 
(valuable),  a  polished  axe-blade  or  shell  ornament,  and 
give  it  to  his  sister's  husband,  the  father  {tamo)  of  the 
infant  bride.  "This  is  the  katufwoyna  kapo^ula  for  your 
child,"  he  says,  and  adds  that  it  is  given  "so  that  she  may 



not  sleep  with  men,  nor  make  katuyausi  (licentious  esca- 
pades), nor  sleep  in  the  hukumatula  (bachelors'  house). 
She  must  sleep  in  her  mother's  house  only."  Shortly- 
after  this,  three  gifts  of  food  are  offered  by  the  girl's 
family  to  the  boy's  father.  They  are  similar  in  nature 
to  the  three  initial  gifts  in  ordinary  marriage,  and  are 
designated  by  the  same  names:  ka-tuvilay  fefe^iy  and 

The  natives  regard  vayfokala  (infant  betrothal)  as 
equivalent  to  actual  marriage.  The  betrothed  are  spoken 
of  as  husband  and  wife,  and  thus  address  each  other.  As 
in  adult  wedding,  the  three  gifts  are  considered  to  con- 
clude the  marriage  and  the  infant  bridegroom's  family 
have  to  repay  the  last  present  by  a  return  gift  of  food — 
mafula  kaykaboma.  At  the  next  harvest,  the  girl's  father 
brings  a  vilakuria  (substantial  contribution  of  yam  food) 
to  the  boy's  parents.  This  latter  fact  is  interesting,  since 
it  is  a  reversal,  on  account  of  the  anticipated  marriage, 
of  what  happens  in  the  previous'  generation.  The  boy's 
father,  who  is  the  brother  of  the  girl's  mother,  has  to  give 
a  harvest  gift  year  by  year  to  the  girl's  parents  j  and  this 
at  the  time  of  his  sister's  marriage  he  had  inaugurated  by 
a  gift  of  vilakuria.  Now  he  receives  on  behalf  of  his 
infant  son  a  vilakuria  gift  from  his  sister's  husband,  who- 
acts  as  the  representative  of  his  own  son  or  sons,  that  is 
the  brother  or  brothers  of  the  future  bride,  who  later  on 
will  annually  bring  substantial  harvest  offerings  to  the 
household,  when  it  becomes  such.  As  yet,  however,  the 
yearly  urigubu  (harvest  gifts)   do  not  follow  the  first 



offering  of  crops  (the  vilakuria)^  and  this  interval  in  the 
exchange  of  gifts  lasts  until  betrothal  culminates  in  actual 

This  concludes  the  preliminary  exchange  of  gifts  at 
infant  betrothal.  Although  it  is  called  by  the  natives  a 
marriage,  the  de  facto  difference  between  betrothal  and 
marriage  is  recognized  in  the  explicit  statements  of  the 
natives  and  in  custom,  for  when  the  two  grow  up  they 
have  to  marry  again.  The  bride,  that  is,  has  to  go  offi- 
cially to  the  bridegroom's  house,  share  his  bed  there,  take 
her  meals  with  him  and  be  publicly  announced  to  have 
married  him.  The  initial  gifts  of  ordinary  marriage, 
however  (Nos.  1-4  of  the  table  in  sec.  3)  are  omitted  on 
this  occasion.  Only  the  large  harvest  gift  (vilakuria), 
and  its  repayment  {takwalela  vilakuria)  are  exchanged. 

But  before  this  stage  is  reached  and  the  two  are  safely 
married,  a  somewhat  difficult  course  has  to  be  steered. 
Although  nobody  seriously  expects  the  young  people  to 
be  chaste  and  faithful  to  each  other,  appearances  have  to 
be  kept  up.  A  flagrant  transgression  of  the  obligation  to 
the  betrothed  would  be  resented  by  the  offended  party, 
and  with  some  exaggeration  called  "adultery."  It  is  con- 
sidered a  great  shame  to  the  girl  if  her  fiance  openly  has 
a  liaison  with  someone  else,  and  she  on  her  side  must 
not  make  a  hukufnutula  her  permanent  abode  either  in 
the  company  of  her  betrothed  or  of  anyone  else  j  nor  may 
she  go  to  other  villages  on  those  avowedly  sexual  expedi- 
tions called  katuyausi  (see  ch.  ix,  sec.  7).  Both  parties 
to  the  betrothal  must  carry  on  their  amours  discreetly  and 
sub  rosa.    This,  of  course,  is  neither  easy  nor  pleasant  for 



them,  and  they  tread  the  strait  path  of  superficial 
decorum  only  under  heavy  pressure.  The  boy  knows 
what  he  has  to  lose,  so  he  is  as  careful  as  he  can  bring 
himself  to  be.  Also,  the  father  controls  his  son  to  some 
extent,  and  at  the  same  time  exercises  some  authority  over 
his  future  daughter-in-law,  through  his  status  of  maternal 
uncle.  A  man  who  had  betrothed  his  son  and  niece  to 
each  other  put  the  matter  thus  to  me:  "She  is  afraid  that 
she  might  die  (that  is,  by  sorcery),  or  that  I  might  hit 
her."  And,  of  course,  her  mother  is  very  careful  and  does 
what  she  can  to  conceal  and  make  light  of  her  daughter's 

In  spite  of  this,  friction  is  common  and  ruptures  not 
unknown.  One  of  my  earliest  informants  was  Gomaya 
of  Sinaketa,  an  enterprising,  but  very  lazy  and  dishonest 
man,  and  a  great  coureur  de  jermnes,  I  got  his  story 
partly  from  himself,  partly  from  gossip,  and  partly  by 
personal  observation.  He  was  betrothed  to  his  cross- 
cousin,  but  in  spite  of  this,  entered  into  a  flagrant  intrigue 
with  a  good-looking  girl,  one  Ilamweria  of  Wakayse,  a 
village  near  Omarakana  (see  ch.  vii,  sec.  4).  Once,  when 
he  brought  this  girl  to  Sinaketa,  the  kinsmen  of  his  fiancee 
wanted  to  kill  her  and  she  had  to  run  away.  When 
Gomaya  grew  tired  of  his  amour  and  went  back  to  his 
native  village,  he  wished  to  sleep  with  his  betrothed,  but 
she  refused.  "You  always  sleep  with  Ilamweria,"  she 
said,  "so  go  to  her."  He  at  once  applied  to  a  man 
acquainted  with  love  magic  and  asked  for  a  spell,  saying: 
"I  want  to  sleep  with  my  wife  (that  is,  my  fiancee)  j  she 
refuses  me.     I  must  make  some  magic  over  her."    And 



it  was  only  after  the  required  rites  had  been  performed 
that  she  yielded.  The  marriage,  however,  was  never 
completed,  for  in  the  end  her  parents  dismissed  him  as 
a  lazy  good-for-nothing.  The  presents  were  not  re- 
turned, for  this  is  not  customary  when  a  cross-cousin 
betrothal  is  dissolved.  We  have  also  seen  that  the  be- 
trothal between  Kalogusa  and  Dabugera  never  resulted 
in  marriage.  But  in  my  opinion  both  these  failures,  which 
are  of  recent  date,  were  largely  due  to  the  subversive  in- 
fluence of  the  white  man  on  native  custom. 

In  the  foregoing  sections  we  have  given  an  account  of 
the  various  inducements  to  marriage  and  of  the  two 
modes  of  contracting  it.  In  the  next  chapter  we  shall 
pass  to  a  description  of  the  phases  of  wedded  life  itself, 
and  of  the  sociological  features  of  marriage  as  an  institu- 




Husband  and  wife  in  the  Trobriands  lead  their  common 
life  in  close  companionship,  working  side  by  side,  sharing 
certain  of  the  household  duties,  and  spending  a  good  deal 
of  their  leisure  with  each  other,  for  the  most  part  in 
excellent  harmony  and  with  mutual  appreciation.  We 
have  already  visited  a  native  household,  while  taking  a 
general  survey  of  the  relations  between  the  sexes,  and 
have  gained  this  impression  from  our  preliminary  inspec- 
tion. With  our  present  greater  knowledge  of  Trobriand 
sociology,  and  better  understanding  of  sexual  matters,  we 
must  now  reconsider  the  subject  of  the  personal  relations 
between  husband  and  wife. 


We  left  the  young  couple  starting  their  common  life 
in  the  hut  of  the  bridegroom's  parents  j  here  they  remain 
until  the  protracted  series  of  marriage  gifts  and  counter- 
gifts,  and  the  redistribution  of  every  one  of  these  among 
more  distant  relatives,  has  been  completed.  Only  about 
the  time  of  the  next  harvest  do  they  build  their  own 
home  3  until  then  they  have  to  spend  a  protracted  "honey- 



moon"  under  the  parental  roof.  This  must  seem  a  most 
unsatisfactory  state  of  affairs  to  the  European  reader. 
But  he  must  avoid  drawing  too  close  a  parallel  to  our 
own  conditions.  The  young  people  have  left  the  pas- 
sionate stages  of  their  life  together  behind  them  in  the 
bukumatulay  and  the  initial  months  of  matrimony,  on 
which  they  now  enter,  are  not  of  predominantly  sexual 
interest  to  them.  Now  it  is  the  change  in  their  social 
status,  and  the  alteration  which  their  relations  undergo, 
both  towards  their  own  families  and  towards  the  other 
people  in  the  village,  which  mainly  preoccupy  them. 

Although  there  is  no  definite  sexual  taboo  at  this  time, 
the  newly  wedded  couple  probably  think  less  of  love- 
making  during  the  stage  which  corresponds  to  our  honey- 
moon than  they  have  done  for  a  long  time  previously. 
I  have  heard  this  statement  volunteered:  "We  feel 
ashamed  in  the  house  of  our  mother  and  father.  In  the 
bukumatula  a  man  has  intercourse  with  his  sweetheart 
before  they  marry.  Afterwards  they  sleep  on  the  same 
bunk  in  the  parental  house,  but  they  do  not  take  off  their 
garments."  The  young  couple  suffer  from  the  embar- 
rassment of  new  conditions.  The  earlier  nights  of 
marriage  are  a  natural  period  of  abstinence. 

When  the  pair  move  on  to  their  own  hut,  they  may 
or  may  not  share  the  same  bunk  5  there  seems  to  be  no 
rule  in  this  matter.  Some  of  my  native  authorities 
specifically  informed  me  that  married  couples  always  sleep 
in  the  same  bed  at  first,  but  later  on  they  separate  and 
come  together  only  for  intercourse.     I  suspect,  however, 



that  this  is  rather  a  piece  of  cynical  philosophy  than  a 
statement  of  accepted  usage. 

It  must  be  remembered  that  it  is  impossible  to  get 
direct  information  from  any  man  concerning  his  own 
conjugal  lifej  for  in  this  matter  a  very  strict  etiquette 
has  to  be  observed.  In  speaking  to  a  husband  the  slightest 
allusion  to  this  must  be  avoided.  Nor  is  any  reference 
allowed  to  their  common  sexual  past,  nor  to  the  woman's 
previous  love  adventures  with  other  men.  It  would  be 
an  unpardonable  breach  of  etiquette  were  you  to  men- 
tion, even  unwittingly  and  in  passing,  the  good  looks  of 
a  wife  to  her  husband:  the  man  would  walk  away  and 
not  come  near  you  for  a  long  time.  The  Trobriander's 
grossest  and  most  unpardonable  form  of  swearing  or 
insult  is  Kwoy  um  kwava  (copulate  with  thy  wife).  It 
leads  to  murder,  sorcery,  or  suicide  (see  ch.  xiii,  sec.  4). 

There  is  an  interesting  and,  indeed,  startling  contrast 
between  the  free  and  easy  manner  which  normally  obtains 
between  husband  and  wife,  and  their  rigid  propriety  in 
matters  of  sex,  their  restraint  of  any  gesture  which  might 
suggest  the  tender  relation  between  them.  When  they 
walk,  they  never  take  hands  or  put  their  arms  about  each 
other  in  the  way,  called  kayfafa^  which  is  permitted  to 
lovers  and  to  friends  of  the  same  sex.  Walking  with  a 
married  couple  one  day,  I  suggested  to  the  man  that  he 
might  support  his  wife,  who  had  a  sore  foot  and  was 
limping  badly.  Both  smiled  and  looked  on  the  ground 
in  great  embarrassment,  evidently  abashed  by  my  im- 
proper suggestion.  Ordinarily  a  married  couple  walk 
one  behind  the  other  in  single  file.    On  public  and  festival 



occasions  they  usually  separate,  the  wife  joining  a  group 
of  other  women,  the  husband  going  with  the  men.  You 
will  never  surprise  an  exchange  of  tender  looks,  loving 
smiles,  or  amorous  banter  between  a  husband  and  wife  in 
the  Trobriands. 

To  quote  a  terse  statement  of  the  case  made  by  one  of 
my  informants:  "A  man  who  puts  his  arm  round  his 
wife  on  the  baku  (central  place  of  the  village,  i.e.  in 
public)  5  a  man  who  lies  down  beside  his  wife  on  his  yam- 
house  platform — he  is  a  fool.  If  we  take  hold  of  our 
wife  by  the  hand — ^we  act  as  fools.  If  a  husband  and 
wife  catch  each  other's  lice  on  the  haku — that  is  correct" 
(see  pi.  25),  With  the  possible  exception  of  the  last 
point,  it  will  be  conceded  that  married  couples  in  the 
Trobriands  push  their  etiquette  to  a  point  which  would 
seem  unnaturally  exaggerated  and  burdensome  to  us. 

This  punctilio,  as  we  know,  does  not  preclude  good- 
humoured  familiarity  in  other  respects.  Husband  and 
wife  may  talk  and  exchange  banter  in  public  as  long  as 
any  allusion  to  sex  is  rigidly  excluded.  Generally  speak- 
ing, husband  and  wife  remain  on  excellent  terms,  and 
show  a  marked  liking  for  each  other's  company.  In 
Omarakana,  Oburaku,  Sinaketa,  and  in  the  many  other 
places  where  I  became  intimately  acquainted  with  the 
domestic  life  of  the  people,  I  found  the  majority  of 
couples  united  by  unwavering  sexual  attachment  or  by  real 
congeniality  of  temperament.  Kalogusa  and  his  wife,  to 
take  an  instance  from  among  friends  already  mentioned, 
I  found  as  good  comrades  after  two  years  of  marriage 
as  in  the  days  of  courtship.    And  Kuwo'igu,  the  wife  of 



my  best  informant  and  chief  favourite,  Tokulubakiki, 
made  him  a  good  mate,  for  the  two  were  well-matched 
in  looks,  in  dignity,  in  decency  of  character  and  in  sweet- 
ness of  temper  (see  pi.  26).  Mitakata  and  his  wife 
Orayayse,  before  their  divorce,  Towese'i  and  Ta'uyaj 
Namwana  Guya'u  and  Ibomala  were  all,  in  spite  of  occa- 
sional differences,  excellent  friends  and  companions.  Be- 
tween older  couples  also  a  real  affection  is  sometimes 
found.  The  chief,  To'uluwa,  for  instance,  was  genuinely 
attached  to  his  wife,  Kadamwasila.  But  affection,  in  some 
cases,  is  not  sufficient  to  stand  against  the  stress  of  cir- 
cumstance. Thus  Mitakata  and  Orayayse,  an  exemplary 
couple  when  I  first  knew  them  in  191 5,  were  forced  apart 
by  the  quarrel  between  the  husband  and  the  wife's  kins- 
man, Namwana  Guya'u  (ch.  i,  sec.  2).  Two  of  the  finest 
looking  people  whom  I  knew  in  the  Trobriands,  Tomeda 
of  Kasana'i,  and  his  wife,  Sayabiya,  whom  I  had  supposed 
most  tenderly  attached  during  my  first  visit,  were  already 
divorced  on  my  return.  But  the  existence  of  attachments 
lasting  into  old  age  shows  that  conjugal  affection  in  the 
Trobriands  can  be  real,  even  though  perhaps  it  is  not 
always  deep. 

I  seldom  witnessed  quarrels  or  heard  bad  language 
among  married  people.  If  a  woman  is  a  shrew  {uriweri) 
and  the  husband  not  sufficiently  dominated  to  bear  the  fact 
meekly,  or  vice  versa^  marriage  is  so  easily  dissolved  that 
there  is  hardly  ever  an  unsuccessful  match  which  survives 
the  first  outbreak  long.  I  can  remember  only  two  or  three 
households,  where  relations  between  husband  and  wife 
were  outwardly  and  chronically  strained.     Two  married 



people  in  Oburaku  frequently  indulged  in  lengthy- 
quarrels,  to  such  a  degree  that  the  matter  became  a  serious 
nuisance  to  me  and  disturbed  my  field-work.  As  their 
hut  was  next  door  to  my  tent/  I  could  hear  all  their  do- 
mestic differences — it  almost  made  me  forget  that  I  was 
among  savages  and  imagine  myself  back  among  civilized 
people.  MorovatOj  a  reliable  informant  and  friend  of 
mine,  was  ordered  about  by  his  wife  and  badly  henpecked, 
and  I  could  cite  perhaps  one  more  really  unfortunate 
marriage  in  Sinaketa.  That  there  are  fewer  matches  in 
which  the  man,  and  not  the  woman,  is  the  aggressor  in  the 
quarrel  is  probably  due  to  the  fact  that  it  is  a  rather  more 
serious  loss  to  a  man  to  break  up  a  good  home  than  it  is 
to  a  woman  (see  next  chapter).  A  couple  living  in  Liluta 
used  to  have  difficulties  owing  to  the  man's  aggressive  and 
jealous  temper.  Once,  when  he  scolded  and  ill-treated 
his  wife  very  brutally  for  making  kula  (ceremonial  ex- 
change) of  aromatic  wreaths  of  the  hutia  flower  with 
another  man,  she  went  away  to  her  own  village.  I  saw 
an  embassy  of  several  men  come  from  the  husband  to  the 
wife,  bringing  her  reconciliation  presents  (lula).  This 
was  the  only  case  of  wife-beating  which  actually  occurred 
during  my  stay  in  Kiriwina,  and  it  was  done  in  a  fit  of 


Jealousy,  with  or  without  adequate  reason,  and  adultery 
are  the  two  factors  in  tribal  life  which  put  most  strain 
on  the  marriage  tie.    In  law,  custom  and  public  opinion, 



sexual  appropriation  is  exclusive.  There  is  no  lending  of 
wives,  no  exchange,  no  waiving  of  marital  rights  in  favour 
of  another  man.  Any  such  breach  of  marital  fidelity  is  as 
severely  condemned  in  the  Trobriands  as  it  is  in  Christian 
principle  and  European  lawj  indeed  the  most  puritanical 
public  opinion  among  ourselves  is  not  more  strict.  Need- 
less to  say,  however,  the  rules  are  as  often  and  as  easily 
broken,  circumvented,  and  condoned  as  in  our  own 

In  the  Trobriands  the  norms  are  strict,  and  though 
deviations  from  them  are  frequent,  they  are  neither  open 
nor,  if  discovered,  unatonedj  they  are  certainly  never 
taken  as  a  matter  of  course. 

For  example,  in  October,  191 5,  during  one  of  the 
chief's  long  absences  overseas,  the  village  of  Omarakana 
was  put  under  the  usual  taboo.  After  sunset,  no  people 
were  supposed  to  leave  their  houses,  no  young  men  from 
the  neighbourhood  were  allowed  to  pass  through,  the 
village  was  deserted  save  for  one  or  two  old  men  who 
had  been  appointed  to  keep  watch.  Night  after  night, 
when  I  was  out  in  search  of  information,  I  found  the 
streets  empty,  the  houses  shut,  and  no  lights  to  be  seen. 
The  village  might  have  been  dead.  Nor  could  I  get 
anyone  from  Omarakana  or  the  neighbourhood  to  come 
to  my  tent.  One  morning  before  I  was  up,  a  great  com- 
motion arose  at  the  other  end  of  the  village,  and  I  could 
hear  loud  quarrelling  and  screaming.  Startled,  I  hurried 
to  make  inquiries  and  was  able  to  find  one  or  two  of  my 
special  friends  in  the  angry,  vociferating  crowd,  who  told 
me  what  had  occurred.     Tokwaylabiga,  one  of  the  less 



noble  sons  of  To'uluwa,  the  chief,  who  had  not  accom- 
panied his  father,  had  left  Omarakana  on  a  visit.  Re- 
turning before  he  was  expected,  he  was  told  that  his  wif e^ 
Digiyagaya,  had  slept  in  his  absence  with  another  son  of 
To'uluwa,  Mwaydayle,  and  that  they  had  that  very  morn- 
ing gone  together  to  the  gardens,  the  woman  taking  her 
water-bottles  as  a  pretext.  He  ran  after  them  and, 
according  to  gossip,  found  them  under  compromising 
conditions,  though  the  real  facts  will  never  be  known. 
Tokwaylabiga,  not  a  very  bloodthirsty  man,  vented  his 
passion  and  revenged  himself  on  his  wife  by  smashing 
all  her  water-bottles.  Obviously  a  philosopher  like  M. 
Bergeret,  he  did  not  want  to  cause  any  serious  trouble,  and 
yet  was  not  willing  to  suppress  his  injured  feelings  alto- 
gether. The  commotion  which  had  attracted  my  attention 
was  the  reception  given  to  husband  and  wife  on  their  re- 
turn to  the  village  5  for  the  taboo  had  been  broken,  and 
all  the  citizens  were  out  taking  sides  with  one  party  or  the 
other.  The  same  evening  I  saw  the  outraged  husband 
sitting  beside  his  wife  in  perfect  harmony.^ 

Another  case  of  adultery  has  been  previously  men- 
tioned in  the  account  of  Namwana  Guya'u's  expulsion. 
Rightly  or  wrongly,  he  suspected  his  father's  nephew  and 
heir,  Mitakata,  of  having  committed  adultery  with  his 
wife,  Ibomala.  But  he  also  did  not  push  his  conjugal 
vindictiveness  beyond  bringing  the  case  before  the  white 
magistrate,  and  after  he  left  the  capital,  he  and  his  wife 

1  Another  case  of  breach  of  the  sexual  taboo  imposed  on  the  village 
during  the  chiefs  absence  has  been  described  in  Argonauts  of  the  West" 
em  Facile,  p.  484.    See  also  pp.  205-6  of  that  book. 



^ere  to  be  seen  together  in  his  own  village  apparently 
■on  excellent  terms. 

There  are  more  serious  cases  of  conjugal  infidelity  on 
record,  however.  In  a  small  village  near  Omarakana, 
there  lived  a  man  called  Dudubile  Kautala,  who  died  in 
191 6,  apparently  of  old  age,  and  whose  funeral  I  at- 
tended. I  remember  his  wife,  Kayawa,  as  a  terrible  old 
iiag,  shrivelled  like  a  mummy  and  smeared  all  over  with 
grease  and  soot  as  a  sign  of  mourning^  and  I  can  still 
feel  the  dreadful  atmosphere  pervading  her  little  widow's 
cage,  where  I  paid  her  a  visit  soon  after  her  bereavement. 
History  tells  us,  however,  that  once  she  was  fair  and 
tempting,  so  that  men  were  driven  to  suicide  for  her. 
Molatagula,  chief  of  a  neighbouring  village,  was  among 
those  who  succumbed  to  her  beauty.  One  day,  when  the 
husband  had  gone  to  procure  fish  from  a  lagoon  village, 
the  love-sick  chieftain  entered  Kayawa's  house  knowing 
her  to  be  indoors — a  gross  breach  of  usage  and  manners. 
The  story  runs  that  Kayawa  lay  asleep  naked  upon  her 
bed,  offering  a  most  alluring  sight  to  the  intruder,  as  the 
natives  somewhat  crudely  put  it.  He  approached  her  and 
took  advantage  of  her  sleep  and  helplessness,  without, 
says  my  version,  still  gallantly  partial  to  the  lady,  any 
connivance  on  her  part.  But  when  the  husband  returned, 
panting  under  a  load  of  fish,  he  found  them  together. 
Both  were  undressed  and  there  was  more  besides  to  com- 
promise them.  The  adulterer  tried  to  carry  it  off  with 
effrontery,  and  said  he  had  only  come  to  fetch  some  fire. 
But  the  evidence  was  against  him,  and  when  the  husband 
seized  an  axe,  the  offender  tore  a  big  hole  in  the  thatch 



and  escaped.  Public  opinion  was  unfavourable  and  the 
villagers  insulted  and  ridiculed  Molatagula.  So  he  took 
some  of  the  fish  poison  which  is,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  the 
resource  of  those  who  wish  to  leave  a  loop-hole  in  the 
suicide  forced  upon  them.  He  was,  in  fact,  saved  by 
emetics,  and  lived  in  all  honour  and  good  health  for  some 
time  afterwards. 

A  more  tragic  story  is  that  told  in  Omarakana  about  a 
man  called  Taytapola,  belonging  to  a  generation  now 
passed  away.  He  caught  his  wife  Bulukwau'ukwa  in  the 
very  act  of  adultery  with  Molukwayawa,  a  man  of  the 
same  village.  The  adulterer  succeeded  in  making  his 
escape.  The  husband  pursued  him-  spear  in  hand,  but 
failing  to  overtake  him,  came  back  to  his  hut  and  blew  the 
conch  shell.  His  maternal  kinsmen  {yeyold)  rallied 
round  him  5  and  they  all  repaired  to  the  adversary's  end 
of  the  village,  where  they  accused  the  culprit  and  insulted 
him  in  front  of  his  sub-clan.  A  village  fight  ensued,  the 
two  principals  facing  each  other,  each  supported  by  his 
kinsmen.  The  offender  was  speared  and  died.  In  such 
a  case,  the  attack  was  probably  concentrated  on  him  per- 
sonally, and  the  defence  of  the  wrongdoer  lacked  the 
impetus  of  conviction. 

Kouta'uya,  a  chief  of  the  compound  village  of  Sinaketa, 
went  on  a  kula  expedition  to  Gumasila.^  One  of  his 
wives,  Bogonela,  had  a  lover,  by  name  Kaukweda  Guya'u. 
Both  men  are  still  alive  and  well  known  to  me.  The 
eldest  wife  of  the  absent  chief,  Pitaviyaka,  was  suspicious 

1  He  and  his  sailings  are  familiar  to  readers  of  Argonauts  of  the  JVest- 
em  Pacific* 



of  her  fairer  companion  and  watched  her.  Hearing  a 
noise  one  night,  she  went  to  Bogonela's  hut  and  found  the 
two  lovers  together.  A  great  scandal  broke  out  in  the 
village.  The  guilty  wife  was  publicly  harangued  and 
insulted  by  the  female  relatives  of  her  husband:  "You 
like  carnal  pleasures  too  muchj  you  are  too  fond  of  male 
charms."  Bogonela  did  as  the  custom  and  ideal  of  per- 
sonal honour  dictated.  In  her  best  attire  and  adorned 
with  all  her  valuable  ornaments,  she  climbed  a  tall  coconut 
palm  on  the  central  place  of  the  village.  Her  little 
daughter,  Kaniyaviyaka,  stood  under  the  tree  and  cried. 
Many  people  were  assembled.  She  commended  her  child 
to  the  care  of  the  eldest  wife  and  jumped  from  the  tree. 
She  was  killed  on  the  spot. 

There  are  many  such  stories  which  prove  the  existence 
of  strong  passions  and  complex  sentiments  among  the 
natives.  Thus  a  man  of  Sinaketa  named  Gumaluya  was 
married  to  Kutawouya,  but  fell  in  love  with  Ilapakuna, 
and  entered  into  a  regular  liaison  with  her.  His  wife 
refused  to  cook  for  him  or  to  bring  him  water,  so  he  had 
to  receive  these  from  a  married  sister.  One  evening,  at 
the  time  when  a  village  is  socially  astir  with  families 
sitting  over  their  supper  or  gossiping  round  the  fire, 
Kutawouya  made  a  scene  in  public,  and  her  scolding  rang 
right  through  the  village:  "You  are  too  fond  of  dissi- 
pation j  you  are  in  a  constant  state  of  sexual  excitement  j 
you  never  tire  of  copulation"  j  these  were  fragments  of 
her  speech,  retailed  to  me  in  a  vividly  coloured  narrative. 
She  goaded  herself  into  a  fury,  and  insulted  the  man  in 
such  shocking  words  that  he  also  became  blinded  by  pas- 



sion,  and  seized  a  stick  and  beat  her  into  senselessness. 
Next  day  she  committed  suicide  by  taking  the  gall-bladder 
of  the  soka  fish  (a  species  of  globe-fish),  a  poison  which 
acts  with  lightning  rapidity. 

Isakapu,  a  fine-looking  young  woman,  virtuous  and 
hard-working,  was,  if  we  are  to  believe  the  testimony  of 
historical  gossip,  quite  faithful  to  her  husband,  yet  wrong- 
fully suspected  by  him.  One  day,  returning  home  after 
a  prolonged  absence,  he  fell  into  a  fury  of  jealousy 3  he 
accused  and  insulted  her  in  a  loud  voice,  and  beat  her 
mercilessly.  She  wept  and  lamented,  crying:  "I  am  sore 
all  over,  my  head  aches,  my  back  aches,  my  buttocks  ache. 
I  shall  climb  a  tree  and  jump  down."  A  day  or  two  after 
the  quarrel,  she  adorned  herself,  climbed  a  tree  and  cried 
aloud  to  her  husband:  "Kabwaynaka,  come  here.  Look 
at  me  as  I  see  you.  I  never  committed  adultery.  You 
beat  and  insulted  me  without  reason.  Now  I  shall  kill 
myself."  The  husband  tried  to  reach  her  in  time  to  stop 
her,  but  when  he  was  half-way  up  the  tree,  she  threw 
herself  down  and  thus  ended  her  life. 

For  some  reason  Bolobesa,  one  of  the  wives  of  Numa- 
kala,  the  predecessor  of  the  present  chief  of  Omarakana, 
left  her  husband  for  a  time  and  returned  to  her  own  vil- 
lage, Yalumugwa.  Her  maternal  uncle,  Gumabudi,  chief 
of  that  village,  sent  her  back  to  her  husband.  She  refused 
to  go  and  turned  back  again  half-way,  although,  I  was 
told,  she  quite  intended  to  return  to  her  husband  ulti- 
mately. Her  uncle  insisted,  and  insulted  her  so  grossly 
that  she  committed  suicide. 

In  each  of  these  cases  it  was  open  to  the  woman  simply 



to  leave  her  husband  j  or,  in  the  last  quoted  incident,  to 
return  to  him.  In  each,  she  was  evidently  prevented  from 
adopting  this  easy  solution  by  some  strong  attachment,  or 
by  amour  frofre  and  a  sense  of  personal  honour.  Death 
was  preferable  to  life  in  the  village  where  she  had  been 
dishonoured,  preferable  too  to  life  in  any  other  village. 
It  was  unbearable  to  live  with  the  man,  and  impossible 
to  live  without  him,  a  state  of  mind  which,  though  it 
might  seem  incredible  among  savages  whose  sexual  life  is 
so  easy  and  carnal,  yet  can  exercise  real  influence  on  their 
married  life.  v 



We  now  come  to  the  most  remarkable  and,  one  might 
say,  sociologically  sensational  feature  of  Trobriand  mar- 
riage. It  is  so  important  that  I  have  already  had  to 
anticipate  my  statement  of  it  several  times.  Marriage 
puts  the  wife's  family  under  a  permanent  tributary  obli- 
gation to  the  husband,  to  whom  they  have  to  pay  yearly 
contributions  for  as  long  as  the  household  exists.  From 
the  moment  when  they  signify  by  the  first  gift  that  they 
accept  the  marriage,  they  have  to  produce,  year  after  year 
by  their  own  labour,  a  quantity  of  yams  for  their  kins- 
woman's family.  The  size  of  the  offering  varies  with  the 
status  of  both  partners,  but  covers  about  half  the  annual 
consumption  in  an  average  household. 

When,  after  their  "honeymoon"  in  the  boy's  parental 
house,  the  couple  set  up  for  themselves,  they  have  to  erect 
a  yam-store  as  well  as  a  dwelling-hut,  and  the  former, 



as  we  know,  will  stand  in  the  inner  ring  facing  the  latter. 
The  yam-house  has  a  ceremonial  compartment,  contained 
between  the  beams  of  a  square  well,  and  into  this  the 
annual  contribution  of  the  wife's  family  is  regularly 
stowed  at  harvest.  At  the  same  time  the  master  of  the 
new  household  is  himself  delivering  a  large  quantity  of 
yams  to  his  own  sister  or  female  relatives.  He  keeps  for 
himself  only  the  inferior  tubers,  stowed  under  the  thatch 
in  the  top  compartment  and  in  the  inferior  yam-houses, 
sokfimiyfa.  He  also  produces  his  own  seed  yams  and  all 
other  vegetables:  peas,  pumpkins,  taro  and  viya. 

Thus  everyone  keeps  back  a  fraction  of  his  garden- 
yield  for  himself.  The  rest  goes  to  his  female  relatives 
and  their  husbands.  When  a  boy  is  young,  his  duty  is 
to  provide  for  his  nearest  female  relative,  his  mother. 
Later  on,  he  has  to  maintain  his  sister  when  she  marries  j 
or  perhaps  a  maternal  aunt,  or  a  maternal  aunt's  daughter, 
if  these  have  no  nearer  male  kinsmen  to  provide  for  them. 

There  are  several  types  of  garden,  each  of  a  different 
nature  and  with  a  different  name.  There  are  the  early 
gardens,  kaymugwa^  planted  with  mixed  crops,  which 
begin  to  yield  new  food  after  the  last  year's  harvest  has 
been  exhausted.  This  keeps  the  household  going  until  the 
new,  main  harvest  has  begun.  And  there  is  the  taro 
garden,  tafofu..  Both  of  these  every  family  makes  for 
its  own  use.  Then  there  is  the  main  garden,  kaymatay 
the  yield  of  which  is  chiefly  devoted  to  the  supply  of  the 
female  relatives.  All  that  the  man  produces  for  his  own 
use  is  called  by  the  generic  term  taytumwala;  what  he 



grows  for  his  women-folk  and  their  husbands  is  called 

The  harvest  of  the  main  gardens  inaugurates  a  long 
and  elaborate  series  of  activities,  associated  with  the  oflFer- 
ing  of  annual  gifts.  The  members  of  each  household — 
for  digging  is  always  done  en  famille — repair  to  their  own 
garden-plot  within  the  large,  communal  enclosure.  The 
yams  of  the  small  variety,  called  taytUy  which  are  by  far 
the  most  important  of  all  native  vegetables,  are  then  dug 
up  by  means  of  pointed  sticks  and  carried  to  a  shady 
arbour  {kaUmomyo)  made  of  poles  and  yam  vine,  where 
the  family  group  sit  down  and  carefully  clean  the  dug-up 
tubers,  shaking  the  earth  from  them  and  shaving  off  the 
hairs  with  sharpened  shells.  Then  a  selection  is  made. 
The  best  yams  are  placed  in  a  large  conical  heap  in  the 
middle,  and  this  is  the  urigubu  yield  (see  pi.  27).  The 
rest  are  stowed  away  in  the  corners  in  less  regular  and 
much  smaller  heaps.  The  main  heap  is  constructed  with 
almost  geometrical  precision,  with  the  best  yams  carefully 
distributed  all  over  its  surface,  for  it  will  remain  in  the 
little  shed  for  some  time,  to  be  admired  by  people  from 
the  village  and  neighbouring  communities.  All  this  part 
of  the  work,  which,  as  can  easily  be  seen,  has  no  utili- 
tarian value,  is  done  eagerly,  with  interest  and  con  amorey 
under  the  stimulus  of  vanity  and  ambition.  The  chief 
pride  of  a  Trobriander  is  to  gain  renown  as  a  "master- 
gardener"  {tokway-bagula) .  And  to  achieve  this,  he  will 
make  great  efforts  and  till  many  plots  in  order  to  produce 
a  considerable  nunAer  of  heaps  with  a  large  quantity  of 



yams  in  each.  It  must  also  be  remembered  that  the  mar- 
riage gift  is  the  chief  and  most  ostentatious  product  of 
the  garden  work. 

In  about  a  week  or  a  fortnight,  the  taytu  (small  yams) 
are  brought  in  from  the  gardens  to  the  village.  The 
owner  then  engages  a  number  of  helpers — men,  women, 
and  children — to  carry  the  gift  to  his  sister's  husband, 
perhaps  right  at  the  other  end  of  the  district  (pi.  28). 
These  put  on  semi-festive  dress  (see  pi.  61),  paint  their 
faces,  adorn  themselves  with  flowers  and  set  out  in  a  merry 
crowd  J  this  is  a  time  for  gaiety  and  rejoicing.  The  carrier 
parties  walk  about  all  over  the  gardens,  inspect  and  admire 
or  criticize  the  crops.  Perhaps  a  man,  through  special 
luck  or  excess  of  zeal  in  labour,  has  an  outstandingly  good 
yield,  and  the  renown  {buturd)  of  this  has  spread.  Or 
there  may  be  a  famous  master-gardener  in  the  village, 
and  his  crops  have  to  be  viewed  and  compared  with  his 
previous  achievements.  Sometimes  a  village  community, 
or  several  of  them,  agree  to  have  a  kayasa  (competitive) 
harvest,  and  all  strive  td  the  utmost  to  do  themselves  and 
their  community  credit.  The  rivalry  is  so  strong  that  in 
old  days  there  was  seldom  a  kayasa  harvest  without  a  war, 
or  at  least  fights,  to  follow. 

The  gardens  have  a  picturesque  and  festive  appearance 
at  this  time.  The  uprooted  heaps  of  taytu  vine  litter  the 
soil  with  large,  decorative  leaves,  shaped  like  those  of 
the  fig  or  of  the  grape.  Among  them  groups  of  people 
are  seated  cleaning  the  yams  and  arranging  them,  while 
gay  parties  of  sightseers  come  and  go  through  the  welter 
of  leaves.    The  copper-colour  of  their  bodies,  the  red  and 



gold  of  the  girls'  gala  petticoats,  the  crimson  of  the 
hibiscus,  the  pale  yellow  pandanus,  and  the  green  of  the 
garlands  of  trailing  foliage,  catching  at  limb  or  breast, 
make  up  a  half  Bacchic,  half  idyllic  South  Sea  pastoral. 

After  they  have  rested  and  admired  the  gardens,  the 
crowd  of  carriers  engaged  for  the  occasion  repair  to  the 
owner's  plot.  There  the  yams  are  dealt  out  and  measured 
with  a  standard  basket.  For  each  basketful,  a  small  petal 
is  torn  oflF  a  cycas  leaf.  Each  tenth  petal  is  left  standing, 
to  mark  the  tithe.  For  a  big  plot,  several  cycas  leaves 
may  have  to  be  used.  The  carriers  then  proceed  to  the 
recipient's  village,  men  and  women  mixing  together,  with 
jokes  and  laughter.  The  owner  supplies  them  with 
dainties  on  the  road:  cocoa-drinks  to  quench  their  thirst, 
betel-nut  as  a  stimulant,  succulent  bananas  to  refresh 
them.  The  village  is  entered  at  high  speedy  the  men  run 
ahead,  pandanus  petals  streaming  from  their  armlets,  and 
the  women  follow  closely.  As  they  come  among  the 
houses,  a  collective  litany  is  shouted,  the  fore-runner  re- 
peating a  series  of  meaningless  traditional  words  very 
quickly  at  the  top  of  his  voice:  ^^Bomgoyy  yakakoyy 
siyaloy  .  .  ."  while  the  whole  crowd  thunder  back  in 
unison  a  loud  and  strident  "Yah."  Then  in  front  of  the 
recipient's  yam-house,  they  build  the  yams  into  a  circular 
heap,  quite  as  fine  as  the  one  made  before  in  the  garden 
(pi.  29).  It  is  only  after  a  few  days  that  the  next  cere- 
monial event  takes  place,  when  the  vegetables  are  re- 
moved to  the  inside  of  the  yam-house. 

Returning  now  to  the  sociological  and  economic  im- 
portance of  the  annual  marriage  endowment,  it  has  very 



considerable  effect  not  only  on  the  marriage  institution 
itself,  but  on  the  whole  economy  and  constitution  o£  the 
tribe.  Looked  at  from  the  point  of  view  of  the  recipient, 
it  is  clear  that  every  man  has  to  guide  his  marital  choice 
according  to  his  needs,  and  to  his  prospective  wife's  en- 
dowment. For  he  will  be  dependent,  not  only  on  his 
own  industry  and  capacity,  but  also  on  that  of  his  rela- 
tives-in-law.  A  fortune-hunter  will  lay  siege  to  a  girl 
who  is  the  only  sister  of  several  brothers — ^the  very  ex- 
istence of  whom  would  at  once  cool  the  ardour  of  a  Euro- 
pean with  a  similar  end  in  view.  Only  a  man  who  could 
face  destitution  with  equanimity  would  court  a  girl  who 
had  several  sisters  and  but  a  single  brother.  As  a  man's 
wife  bears  sons  and  they  grow  up,  he  acquires  as  it  were 
home-made  relatives-in-law — for  in  a  matrilineal  society 
children  are  naturally  classed  with  relatives-in-law — and 
their  first  duty  is  to  provide  for  the  parental  household. 
Ordinarily  the  husband  receives  the  main  part  of  his  wife's 
endowment  from  one  relative-in-law  only  5  but  in  the  case 
of  a  chief  or  a  man  of  importance,  though  one  man  will 
nominally  be  responsible,  many  others  will  co-operate 
with  him  to  provide  a  suitable  gift.  Even  a  commoner, 
however,  receives,  besides  the  urigubu  from  his  chief 
donor,  a  number  of  smaller  gifts  named  kovisi  or  tay- 
tufeta  from  his  wife's  other  relatives.  They  are  all 
presented  at  harvest  time  and  consist  of  several  baskets  of 
yams  and  other  vegetables. 

A  man  also  receives  from  his  relatives-in-law  various 
services,  given  as  occasion  demands.  They  have  to  assist 
him  when  he  builds  a  house  or  canoe,  arranges  for  a 



fishing  expedition,  or  takes  part  in  one  of  the  public  fes- 
tivals. In  illness,  they  must  keep  watch  over  him  against 
sorcerers,  or  carry  him  to  some  other  place  where  he  hopes 
to  get  better.  In  feuds  or  in  other  emergencies  he  may, 
given  certain  circumstances,  command  their  services. 
Finally,  after  his  death,  the  bulk  of  mortuary  duties  will 
fall  upon  them.  Only  from  time  to  time  has  the  man  to 
repay  the  annual  services  of  his  relatives-in-law  by  a  gift 
of  valuables — such  occasional  gifts  being  called  youlo. 

The  most  interesting  question  about  this  institution  of 
annual  harvest  gifts,  and  the  most  difficult  to  under- 
stand, is  this:  what  are  the  legal,  social,  or  psychological 
forces  which  impel  a  man  to  give  freely  and  liberally 
year  after  year,  and  to  strain  his  working  power  to  the 
utmost  in  so  doing?  The  answer  is:  tribal  custom  and 
personal  pride.  There  are  no  definite  punishments  to 
enforce  this  dutyj  those  who  neglect  it  merely  sink  in  the 
public  esteem  and  have  to  bear  public  contempt. 

A  Trobriander  is  extremely  ambitious  and  there  are 
two  points  at  which  his  ambition  is  specially  sensitive. 
One  of  them  is  his  family  pride.  A  man's  sister  is  his 
nearest  relation,  and  her  honour,  her  position  and  her 
dignity  he  identifies  with  his  own.  The  other  point  of 
honour  is  concerned  with  food  supply.  Scarcity  of  food, 
hunger,  lack  of  superabundance  are  considered  very 
shameful  indeed/  Thus,  when  it  is  necessary  to  uphold 
the  honour  of  his  family  by  providing  his  sister  with 
food,  a  Trobriander,  unless  he  is  entirely  devoid  of  de- 

1  For  this  psychology  of  food  honour,  compare  Argonauts  of  the  West' 
em  Pacific,  esp.  ch.  vi,  and  Crime  and  Custom. 



cency  and  morality,  works  with  a  will.  When  his  sister's 
husband  is  a  man  of  higher  rank  than  himself,  then  all 
the  weight  of  the  latter's  prestige  is  added  to  the  stimulus 
of  ambition  3  and  if  the  husband  is  of  a  rank  lower  than 
himself,  then  the  sister's  status  must  be  the  more  en- 
hanced. In  short,  the  sense  of  what  is  right,  the  pressure 
of  public  opinion,  and  inequalities  of  rank  in  either  direc- 
tion, produce  strong  psychological  incentives  which  only 
in  very  rare  and  exceptional  cases  fail  in  their  effect. 

From  the  point  of  view  of  tribal  economy,  this  system 
of  annual  marriage  endowment  introduces  extraordinary 
elements  of  complication:  there  is  all  the  additional  work 
associated  with  display  and  ceremonial  offering  j  there  is 
the  sorting,  cleaning,  and  arrangement  of  the  heaps  j  there 
is  the  building  of  an  arbour.  In  addition  there  is  the 
work  of  transport,  which  is  sometimes  very  considerable  j 
for  a  man  has  to  make  his  garden  in  the  place  where  he 
lives  and  to  transport  the  produce  to  his  brother-in-law's 
village,  perhaps  six  or  eight  miles  away  at  the  other  end 
of  the  district.  Sometimes,  where  the  distance  is  excep- 
tionally great,  a  few  hundred  basketf uls  of  yams  have  to 
be  carried  in  relays  to  a  coastal  village,  transported  thence 
by  canoe,  and  afterwards  carried  again.  It  is  easy  to  see 
the  enormous  amount  of  waste  involved  in  all  this.  But 
if  a  benevolent  white  reformer,  and  there  are,  alas,  many 
such  at  work  even  in  the  Trobriands,  tried  to  break  down 
the  native  system,  the  good  would  be  very  doubtful  and 
the  harm  most  certain.  In  general,  the  destruction  of  any 
tribal  custom  is  subversive  of  order  and  morals.     And 



more  than  this:  if  we  examine  the  roundabout  methods  of 
native  economy  more  closely,  we  see  that  they  provide  a 
powerful  incentive  to  industrial  efficiency.  If  he  worked 
just  to  satisfy  his  own  immediate  wants,  and  had  only 
the  spur  of  directly  economic  considerations,  the  native, 
who  has  no  means  of  capitalizing  his  surplus,  would  have 
no  incentive  to  produce  it.  The  deep-rooted  motives  of 
ambition,  honour,  and  moral  duty  have  raised  him  to  a 
relatively  high  level  of  efficiency  and  organization  which, 
at  seasons  of  drought  and  scarcity,  allows  him  to  produce 
just  enough  to  tide  over  the  calamity. 

In  this  extraneous  economic  endowment  of  households, 
we  see  again  the  dual  workings  of  father-right  and 
matriliny.  The  husband  is  only  partially  the  head  of  the 
household  3  he  is  also  only  partially  its  provider.  His 
wife's  brother,  who  according  to  tribal  law  remains  the 
guardian  of  the  wife  and  her  children,  has  heavy  economic 
duties  towards  the  household.  Thus  there  is  an  economic 
counterpart  to  the  wife's  brother's  interference  with 
household  affairs.  Or  in  other  words,  the  husband, 
through  his  marriage,  acquires  an  economic  lien  on  his 
male  relatives-in-law,  while  they,  in  exchange  for  their 
services,  retain  a  legal  authority  over  the  wife  and  her 
children.  This,  of  course,  is  a  formulation  in  abstract 
terms  of  the  state  of  affairs  as  the  sociologist  sees  it,  and 
contains  no  hypothesis  as  to  the  relative  priority  in  time 
or  importance  of  father-right  and  mother-right.  Nor 
does  it  represent  the  point  of  view  of  the  natives,  who 
would  be  incapable  of  producing  such  an  abstract  formula. 




Monogamy  is  so  much  the  rule  among  the  Trobri- 
anderSj  that  our  treatment  of  their  marriage  customs  has, 
so  far,  assumed  the  existence  of  one  wife  only.  In  a  way 
this  is  not  misleading,  since  if  a  man  has  several  wives, 
all  that  has  been  said  refers  to  each  union  separately. 
But  a  few  supplementary  notes  must  be  added  on  plurality 
of  wives.  Polygamy  (vilayawa)  is  allowed  by  custom  to 
people  of  higher  rank  or  to  those  of  great  importance, 
such  as,  for  instance,  the  sorcerers  of  renown.  In  certain 
cases,  indeed,  a  man  is  obliged  to  have  a  great  number 
of  wives  by  virtue  of  his  position.  This  is  so  with  every 
chief,  that  is  to  say,  every  headman  of  high  rank  who 
exercises  an  over-rule  in  a  more  or  less  extended  district. 
In  order  to  wield  his  power  and  to  fulfil  the  obligations 
of  his  position,  he  must  possess  wealth,  and  this  in 
Trobriand  social  conditions  is  possible  only  through  plu- 
rality of  wives. 

It  is  a  very  remarkable  fact  in  the  constitution  of  the 
tribe  of  which  we  are  speaking,  that  the  source  of  power 
is  principally  economic,  and  that  the  chief  is  able  to  carry 
out  many  of  his  executive  functions  and  to  claim  certain 
of  his  privileges  only  because  he  is  the  wealthiest  man 
in  the  community.  A  chief  is  entitled  to  receive  tokens  of 
high  respect,  to  command  observance  and  require  services  5 
he  can  ensure  the  participation  of  his  subjects  in  war,  in 
any  expedition  and  in  any  festival  5  but  he  needs  to  pay 



heavily  for  all  these  things.  He  has  to  give  great  feasts 
and  finance  all  enterprises  by  feeding  the  participants  and 
rewarding  the  chief  actors.  Power  in  the  Trobriands  is 
essentially  plutocratic.  And  a  no  less  remarkable  and 
unexpected  feature  of  this  system  of  government  is  that, 
although  the  chief  needs  a  large  revenue,  there  is  nothing 
of  the  sort  directly  attached  to  his  office:  no  substantial 
tributes  are  paid  him  by  the  inhabitants  as  from  subject 
to  chief.  The  small  annual  offerings  or  tribute  in  special 
dainties — ^the  first  fish  caught,  vegetable  primitiae,  special 
nuts  and  fruits — are  by  no  means  a  source  of  revenue  j 
in  fact  the  chief  has  to  repay  them  at  full  value.  For  his 
real  income  he  has  to  rely  entirely  on  his  annual  marriage 
contribution.  This,  however,  in  his  case,  is  very  large, 
for  he  has  many  wives,  and  each  of  them  is  far  more 
richly  dowered  than  if  she  had  married  a  commoner. 

A  statement  of  the  specific  conditions  will  make  matters 
clearer.  Each  chief  has  a  tributary  district  comprising 
several  villages — a  few  dozen  in  the  case  of  Kiriwinaj 
a  dozen  or  so  in  Luba  or  Tilataulaj  one  or  two  in  the 
cases  of  some  minor  chiefs — and  this  district  is  tributary 
through  marriage.  Each  subject  community  renders  a 
considerable  contribution  to  the  chief,  but  only  and  exclu- 
sively in  the  form  of  a  dowry,  paid  annually  in  yams. 
Each  village — and  in  the  case  of  a  compound  village  each 
constituent  part  of  it — is  "owned"  by  a  sub-clan  (see 
ch.  i,  sec.  2)  and  ruled  by  the  headman  of  that  sub-clan. 
From  every  one  of  these  sub-clans  the  chief  takes  a  wife 
and  she  is,  as  it  were,  perpetual,  since  on  her  death  another 
wife,  her  substitute  {kaymafula)^  is  immediately  wed  to 



him  from  the  same  sub-clan.  To  the  dowry  of  this  one 
woman,  the  chosen  representative  of  the  sub-clan,  all  its 
male  members  contribute  their  share,  though  the  whole  is 
presented  collectively  by  the  headman.  Thus  every  man 
in  a  district  works  for  his  chief,  but  he  works  for  him  as 
for  his  relative-in-law,  however  distant. 

The  headman  of  Omarakana,  and  chief  of  Kiriwina,  is 
supreme  in  rank,  power,  extent  of  influence  and  renown. 
His  tributary  grasp,  now  considerably  restricted  by  white 
men  and  crippled  by  the  disappearance  of  some  villages, 
used  to  reach  all  over  the  northern  half  of  the  island 
and  comprise  about  five  dozen  communities,  villages,  or 
sub-divisions  of  villages,  which  yielded  him  up  to  sixty 
wives  (of  whom  a  remnant  may  be  seen  on  pi.  30).  Each 
of  these  brought  him  in  a  substantial  yearly  income  in 
yams.  Her  family  had  to  fill  one  or  two  storehouses  each 
year  (pi.  31)  containing  roughly  five  to  six  tons  of  yams. 
The  chief  would  receive  from  300  to  350  tons  of  yams 
per  annum.^  The  quantity  which  he  disposes  of  is  cer- 
tainly sufiicient  to  provide  enormous  feasts,  to  pay  crafts- 
men for  making  precious  ornaments,  to  finance  wars  and 
oversea  expeditions,  to  hire  dangerous  sorcerers  and  as- 
sassins— to  do  all,  in  short,  which  is  expected  of  a  person 
in  power. 

Thus  wealth  emphatically  forms  the  basis  of  power, 
though  in  the  case  of  the  supreme  chief  of  Omarakana, 
it  is  reinforced  by  personal  prestige,  by  the  respect  due  to 

^  This  rough  computation  was  made  for  me  by  a  trader  who  was  en- 
gaged among  other  things  in  exporting  yams  for  the  mainland  plantations. 
As  I  was  unable  to  check  it,  it  must  be  received  with  caution. 



his  tabooed  or  holy  character,  and  by  his  possession  of 
the  dreaded  weather  magic  through  which  he  can  make 
or  mar  the  prosperity  of  the  whole  country.  The  smaller 
chiefs  have  usually  only  a  few  villages  to  draw  uponj  the 
smallest  merely  the  other  component  parts  of  their  own 
settlement.  In  every  case  their  power  and  status  depend 
entirely  on  their  privilege  of  polygamy  and  on  the  excep- 
tionally rich  dowry  due  to  a  woman  who  marries  a  chief. 
This  account  though  short  and  necessarily  incomplete 
will  yet  be  sufficient  to  indicate  the  enormous  and  mani- 
fold  influence  of  marriage  and  polygamy  on  the  consti- 
tution of  power  and  on  the  whole  of  social  organizatioa 
in  the  Trobriands.^ 


Turning  now  to  the  domestic  aspect  of  polygamy,  let 
us  consider  the  steps  by  which  a  chief  acquires  his  several 
wives.  It  will  be  best  to  take  a  specific  instance  j  that  of 
To'uluwa,  for  example.  He  began  his  sexual  life  in  the 
ordinary  way,  passing  through  the  stages  of  complete 
freedom,  then  of  a  liaison  in  the  hukumatulay  and  finally 
of  a  permanent  attachment.  His  first  choice  fell  on 
Kadamwasila,  of  the  clan  of  Lukwasisiga,  the  sub-clan 
Kwaynama  of  Osapola  village  (see  pi.  4  and  diag.  in  ch. 
iv,  sec.  5).     It  was  quite  a  suitable  match,  for  this  sub- 

1 1  cannot  enter  here  more  deeply  into  the  political  nature  of  chieftain- 
ship; I  have  treated  the  subject  somewhat  more  fully  elsewhere  {Argo- 
nauts, ch.  ii,  sec.  v,  pp.  62-70).  Nor  can  I  deal  in  extenso  with  the  eco- 
nomic aspect  of  power;  this  has  been  examined  in  "The  Primitive  Eco- 
nomics of  the  Trobriand  Islanders,"  Economic  Journal,  March,  1921. 



clan  is  the  very  one  from  which  a  Tabalu  chief  ought  to 
choose  his  principal  wife.  The  girl  must  have  been  very 
good-looking,  and  she  certainly  was  a  "real  lady,"  possess- 
ing charm,  dignity,  and  simple  honesty.  The  two  were 
deeply  attached  to  each  other  and  remained  soj  and  the 
union  was  blessed  by  five  boys  and  a  girl,  the  youngest 
child.  I  have  called  Kadamwasila  "the  chief's  favourite 
wife,"  meaning  by  that  that  theirs  was  a  union  of  love, 
a  real  companionship,  and  undoubtedly  in  its  early  years, 
a  passionate  relation.  The  chief,  however,  even  before 
his  accession,  took  to  himself  other  wives,  each  from  one 
of  the  communities  which  have  to  supply  him  with  an 
annual  contribution.  It  often  happens  that  when  a  chief's 
wife  dies,  the  community  from  which  she  came  supplies 
the  heir  apparent,  instead  of  the  actual  chief  himself, 
with  a  girl  who  counts  as  substitute  for  the  deceased. 
To'uluwa  had  become  possessed  of  three  or  four  wives 
of  this  kind,  when  his  elder  brother  and  predecessor  died. 
Then  he  inherited  the  late  chief's  widows,  who  auto- 
matically and  immediately  became  his  wives,  while  their 
children  became  part  of  his  household.  The  majority  of 
the  widows  were  fairly  old,  some  having  passed  through 
the  hands  of  three  husbands.  It  seems  that  the  chief 
would  not  have  any  obligation  to  live  sexually  with  such 
inherited  wives,  but  of  course  he  could  do  so  if  he  wished. 
Subsequently  To'uluwa  married  four  other  wives,  from 
such  communities  as  were  not  represented  among  his  com- 
plement at  the  time.  The  marriage  of  a  chief  does  not 
differ  from  that  of  a  commoner,  except  that  his  wife  is 



brought  to  him  by  her  parents  openly,  and  that  the  gifts 
exchanged  are  more  substantial. 

At  present  a  stop  is  being  gradually  put  to  the  whole 
system  of  the  chief's  polygamy.  The  first  administrators, 
benevolently  conceited  and  megalomaniacally  sensitive  as 
all  those  with  arbitrary  power  over  an  "inferior"  race  are 
apt  to  be,  were  not  guided  by  any  sympathetic  under- 
standing of  native  custom  and  institutions.  They  did  not 
grope,  but  proceeded  at  once  to  hit  about  them  in  the 
dark.  They  tried  to  destroy  such  native  power  as  they 
found,  instead  of  using  it  and  working  through  it.  Po- 
lygamy, a  practice  uncongenial  to  a  European  mind  and 
indeed  regarded  by  it  as  a  sort  of  gross  indulgence,, 
seemed  a  weed  proper  for  extirpation.  So  the  chiefs,  and 
especially  he  of  Omarakana,  though  allowed  to  retain 
such  wives  as  they  had,  were  forbidden  to  fill  the  place 
left  by  each  death,  as  would  have  been  done  in  olden 
days.  This  prohibition  was,  by  the  way,  an  arbitrary  act 
on  the  part  of  the  white  Resident,  since  it  was  justified 
by  no  law  or  regulation  of  the  colony.^  Now  To'uluwa's 
wealth  and  influence  are  declining,  and  would  already 
have  ceased  to  exist  if  it  had  not  been  for  the  faithful 
obedience  of  his  subjects  to  native  custom.  They  were 
openly  encouraged  to  forgo  payment  of  the  annual 
gifts,  and  the  wives  were  invited  to  leave  their  husband  j 

1 1  am  unable  to  say  whether  the  Magistrate's  taboo  on  polygamy  was 
ever  embodied  in  a  definite  statement  or  order,  or  only  verbally  given  to 
the  natives.  But  I  know  that  chiefs  and  headmen  have  not  acquired  re- 
cently any  new  wives  and  that  they  not  only  allege,  as  a  reason  for  this, 
a  taboo  from  the  white  authorities,  but  they  are  genuinely  afraid  of 
defying  this  taboo,  and  also  deeply  resent  it. 



but  so  far  loyalty  and  tradition  have  prevailed.  At  the 
death  of  the  present  chief,  however,  a  complete  disor- 
ganization is  sure  to  take  place  among  the  natives  of  the 
Trobriands,  and  is  certain  to  be  followed  by  a  gradual 
disintegration  of  culture  and  extinction  of  the  race.^ 

Returning  to  the  chief's  household,  it  is  clear  that  his 
relations  with  his  different  wives  cannot  be  the  same. 
Three  classes  of  these  latter  may  be  roughly  distin- 

The  first  of  these  consists  of  wives  acquired  from  his 
predecessor,  a  man  much  older  than  himself.  These 
should  be  regarded  as  dowager  tribute-bringers,  who 
cannot  be  repudiated,  and  are  living  in  dignity  and  retire- 
ment, but  hardly  exercise  sexual  allurement.  Some  of 
them,  indeed,  play  an  important  role  and  enjoy  a  high 
degree  of  prestige.  The  eldest  wife  of  To'uluwa,  Boku- 
yoba  (fourth  from  right  on  pi.  30),  whom  he  inherited 
from  his  elder  brother,  has,  though  childless,  a  right  of 
precedence  in  many  matters,  and  is  considered  the  head 
of  the  giyovila  (chief's  wives)  whenever,  for  ceremonial 
or  festival  purposes  or  during  private  receptions,  they  act 
as  a  body.  Next  come  Bomiyototo,  Bomidabobu,  and 
others,  and  there  is  also  Namtauwa,  mother  of  two  strap- 
ping fellows,  sons  of  the  last  chief,  who  take  next  place 
after  To'uluwa's  own  sons.  The  chief  has  probably  never 
actually  lived  sexually  with  these  venerable  relicts  of  the 
former  regime. 

The  second  class  of  wives  are  those  whom  the  chief 

1  Cf.  the  excellent  analysis  of  such  conditions  in  other  parts  of  Mela- 
nesia in  G.  Pitt-Rivers's  Clash  of  Culture,  pp.  134  sq.  and  passim. 



married  in  his  youth,  women  acquired  and  not  inherited. 
There  is  usually  one  favourite  among  these:  Kadamwasila 
filled  this  position  in  youth,  and  in  her  old  age  she  was 
highly  respected  and  had  considerable  influence.  This 
influence  was  exercised  directly  and  also  indirectly  through 
her  sons,  one  of  whom  is  the  banished  Namwana  Guya'u. 

The  third  class  consists  of  younger  women,  adopted  in 
exchange  for  such  older  ones  as  have  died.  Some  of  them 
are  really  pretty,  for  the  most  attractive  women  are  al- 
ways chosen  for  the  chief.  The  method  of  choice  is  sim- 
ple j  the  chief  simply  indicates  which  of  the  girls  pleases 
him  best,  and,  irrespective  of  her  previous  attachments, 
she  is  given  to  him.  With  these  younger  women  their 
husband  unquestionably  has  sexual  intercourse,  but  the 
same  degree  of  intimacy  and  companionship  as  with  the 
wives  of  his  youth  does  not,  as  a  rule,  obtain. 

The  latest  acquisition  of  To'uluwa,  Ilaka'ise  (second 
from  right  on  pi.  30,  and  on  pi.  31)  is  one  of  the  best- 
looking  girls  in  the  Trobriands.  But  the  chief  is  seldom 
seen  in  her  company.  Isupwana  (pi.  18),  the  eldest  of 
the  third  class  of  acquisitions,  really  stands  on  the  border- 
line between  the  second  and  the  last  category.  She  is  the 
present  favourite  of  the  chief,  and  is  often  to  be  seen 
with  him  in  the  garden,  or  on  visits,  or  in  front  of  his 
personal  hut.  But  he  always  used  to  prefer  to  take  his 
meals  at  the  house  of  Kadamwasila  during  her  life-time, 
and — apart  from  his  own  personal  hut — made  it  his  home. 

The  outward  relations  of  the  chief's  wives  towards 
each  other  are  noticeably  good.  Nor  could  I  discover 
from  indiscreet  village  gossip  the  existence  of  any  vio- 



lent  rivalries  and  hatreds  among  them.  Bokuyoba,  the 
oldest  wife,  who,  as  has  been  said,  enjoyed  a  privileged 
position  among  them,  is  undoubtedly  popular  and  liked 
by  them  all.  She  is  also  supposed  to  keep  an  eye  on  their 
morals,  a  somewhat  invidious  task  which  always  falls  to 
the  oldest  wife.  It  will  be  remembered  that  Pitaviyaka, 
the  first  wife  of  Kouta'uya,  one  of  the  chiefs  of  Sinaketa, 
actually  discovered  an  act  of  adultery  among  her  col- 
leagues, a  discovery  which,  as  we  have  seen,  ended  so 
tragically  in  the  suicide  of  the  guilty  one.  In  Omarakana, 
however,  the  first  wife  is  less  of  a  Mrs.  Grundy. 

Scandal  reports  many  breaches  of  marital  fidelity 
among  To'uluwa's  wives,  especially  and  naturally  on  the 
part  of  the  youngest  ones.  The  point  on  which  village 
gossip  centres  its  most  eager  and  malicious  interest  is  the 
fact  that  several  of  the  most  prominent  sons  of  the  chief 
himself  are  among  the  adulterers.  Of  course,  this  rela- 
tion has  not  the  same  incestuous  flavour  as  it  would  pos- 
sess for  us,  since  the  bodily  tie  between  father  and  son  is 
not  recognized  5  but  it  is  bad  enough  to  scandalize  the  na- 
tives, or  rather  to  arouse  their  interest  by  its  piquancy. 
Ilaka'ise,  the  youngest  wife,  a  girl  of  not  more  than 
twenty-five  and,  with  her  tall  figure,  soft  and  well-de- 
veloped contour,  and  shapely  face,  a  model  of  Melane- 
sian  beauty,  has  a  permanent  intrigue  with  Yobukwa'u. 
He  is  the  third  son  of  To'uluwa  and  Kadamwasila,  and 
one  of  the  finest-looking,  best-mannered,  and  really 
most  satisfactory  fellows  of  my  acquaintance.  As  the 
reader  may  remember,  he  has  recently  married  a  girl  who 
is  not  his  equal  either  in  character  or  in  personal  charm 



(see  ch.  iv,  sec.  i).  His  friends  smiled  at  the  suggestion 
that  his  marriage  might  mean  a  rupture  with  Ilaka'ise. 

Isupwana,  the  chief's  favourite  of  his  younger  wives 
and  a  woman  who  has  the  air  of  a  stately  yet  comely 
matron,  is  enamoured,  among  others,  of  Yabugibogi,  a 
young  son  of  the  chief.  This  youth,  though  good- 
looking  enough  and  endowed,  according  to  the  scandal- 
mongers, with  great  attractions  for  a  jaded  feminine 
taste,  is  perhaps  the  most  obnoxious  waster  in  the  whole 

Namwana  Guya'u,  the  eldest  son  of  Kadamwasila  and 
his  father's  favourite,  does  not  consider  this  fact  a  suffi- 
cient reason  for  being  more  abstemious  than  his  brothers. 
He  has  chosen  Bomawise  for  his  mistress,  the  least  at- 
tractive of  the  few  younger  wives  of  his  father.  Both 
before  his  marriage  and  after  it,  he  lived  in  a  faithful 
though  incestuous  relation  with  her,  which  only  ended 
with  his  banishment. 

The  greatest  scandal  of  all  was  caused  by  Gilayviyaka, 
the  second  son  of  Kadamwasila,  a  fine  and  intelligent 
native,  who  died  soon  after  my  first  departure  from  the 
Trobriands.  Unfortunately  for  himself,  he  married  a 
very  attractive  girl,  Bulubwaloga,  who  seems  to  have  been 
passionately  fond  and  very  jealous  of  him.  Before  his 
marriage,  he  had  an  intrigue  with  Nabwoyuma,  one  of 
his  father's  wives,  and  did  not  break  it  off  after  the  wed- 
ding. His  wife  suspected  and  spied  upon  him.  One 
night,  the  guilty  couple  were  caught  in  'flagrante  delicto 
in  Nabwoyuma's  own  hut  by  the  adulterer's  wife.  The 
alarm  was  given,  and  a  dreadful  public  scandal  ensued. 



The  outraged  wife  left  the  village  immediately.  A  great 
social  upheaval  took  place  in  Omarakana,  and  a  perma- 
nent estrangement  ensued  between  the  father  and  son. 
For,  though  the  chief  probably  knows  a  good  deal  of 
what  goes  on  and  condones  it,  once  a  scandal  becomes 
public,  custom  demands  the  punishment  of  the  offenders. 
In  olden  days  they  would  have  been  speared,  or  destroyed 
by  sorcery  or  poison.  Now  that  the  chief's  power  is  para- 
lysed, nothing  so  drastic  can  happen  5  but  Gilayviyaka  had 
to  leave  the  village  for  some  time,  and  after  his  return 
was  always  under  a  cloud.  His  wife  never  returned  to 
him.  The  chief's  wife  remained  with  a  stain  on  her  char- 
acter, and  in  great  disfavour  with  her  husband. 

I  heard  many  other  items  of  scandalous  gossip  which 
space  forbids  me  to  retail.  It  is  sufficient  to  say  that  the 
behaviour  of  the  eldest  sons  of  Kadamwasila  is  typical. 
The  chief's  other  male  children  seem  to  have  no  such 
permanent  intrigues  with  special  wives,  but  they  are  not 
held  in  greater  public  esteem  because  of  that,  since  they 
are  known  to  take  any  opportunity  of  a  temporary  affair 
with  any  one  of  their  father's  wives.  Nowadays,  when 
the  law  and  the  moral  pretence  of  the  white  rule  have 
done  much  to  rot  away  the  real  morality  and  sense  of 
what  is  right  among  the  natives,  all  these  inter-family 
adulteries  are  committed  much  more  openly  and  shame- 
lessly. But,  even  in  the  old  days,  as  some  of  my  more 
ancient  informants  told  me  with  a  reminiscent  smile,  the 
young  wives  of  an  old  chief  would  never  suffer  a  sad  lot 
in  resignation,  and  would  always  seek  comfort,  with  dis- 



cretion,  but  not  without  success.     Polygamy  in  the  Tro~ 
briands  was  never  a  cruel  and  inhuman  institution. 

In  this  chapter  we  have  discussed  marriage  in  its  do- 
mestic aspect,  and  in  the  aspect  of  the  economic  and  legal 
obligations  which  it  imposes  on  the  wife's  family  with 
regard  to  the  household.  Finally  we  have  discussed  the 
effect  on  public  and  political  life  which  it  exerts  through 
the  fact  of  the  chief's  polygamy.  In  the  next  chapter  we 
shall  see  what  light  is  thrown  on  marriage  in  the  Tro- 
briands  by  the  modes  of  its  dissolution  through  divorce 
and  death. 




The  nature  of  matrimonial  bonds  reveals  itself  in  their 
breaking  in  life  by  divorce,  as  it  does  also  in  their  disso- 
lution by  death.  In  the  first  instance  we  can  observe  the 
strain  to  which  they  are  submitted  j  we  can  see  where  they 
are  strong  enough  to  resist  and  where  they  most  easily 
yield.  In  the  second  we  can  estimate  the  strength  of  the 
social  ties  and  the  depth  of  personal  sorrow  by  their  ex- 
pression in  the  ceremonial  of  mourning  and  burial. 


Divorce,  called  by  the  natives  vaypaka  (yay  =  mar- 
riage 5  faka^  from  faykiy  to  refuse),  is  not  infrequent. 
Whenever  husband  and  wife  disagree  too  acutely,  or 
whenever  bitter  quarrels  or  fierce  jealousy  makes  them 
chafe  too  violently  at  the  bond  between  them,  this  can 
be  dissolved — provided  the  emotional  situation  does  not 
lead  instead  to  a  more  tragic  issue  (see  sec.  2  of  the  pre-» 
vious  chapter).  We  have  seen  why  this  solution,  or 
rather  dissolution,  of  the  difiiculty  is  a  weapon  used  by 
the  woman  rather  than  the  man.  A  husband  very  seldom 
repudiates  his  wife,  though  in  principle  he  is  entitled  to 



do  so.  For  adultery,  he  has  the  right  to  kill  her  5  but  the 
usual  punishment  is  a  thrashing,  or  perhaps  merely  re- 
monstrance or  a  fit  of  the  sulks.  If  he  has  any  other  se- 
rious grievance  against  her,  such  as  bad  temper  or  laziness, 
the  husband,  who  is  little  hampered  by  marriage  ties, 
easily  finds  consolation  outside  his  household,  while  he 
still  benefits  by  the  marriage  tribute  from  his  wife's 

There  are,  on  the  other  hand,  several  instances  on  rec- 
ord of  a  woman  leaving  her  husband  because  of  ill-treat- 
ment or  infidelity  on  his  part,  or  else  because  she  had 
become  enamoured  of  someone  else.  Thus,  to  take  a 
case  already  described,  when  Bulubwaloga  caught  her 
husband,  Gilayviyaka,  m  flagrante  delicto  with  his  father's 
wife,  she  left  him  and  returned  to  her  family  (see  ch.  v, 
sec.  5).  Again,  a  woman  married  to  Gomaya,  the  ne'er- 
do-well  successor  to  one  of  the  petty  chiefs  of  Sinaketa, 
left  him  because,  in  his  own  words,  she  found  him  an 
adulterer  and  also  "very  lazy."  Bolobesa,  the  wife  of  the 
previous  chief  of  Omarakana,  left  him  because  she  was 
dissatisfied  or  jealous,  or  just  tired  of  him  (ch.  v,  sec.  2). 
Dabugera,  the  grand-niece  of  the  present  chief,  left  her 
first  husband  because  she  discovered  his  infidelities  and 
found  him,  moreover,  not  to  her  taste.  Her  mother, 
Ibo'una,  the  chief's  grand-niece,  took  as  a  second  husband 
one  Iluwaka'i,  a  man  of  Kavataria  and  at  that  time  inter- 
preter to  the  resident  magistrate.  When  he  lost  his  po- 
sition she  abandoned  him,  not  only,  we  may  presume, 
because  he  was  less  good-looking  without  his  uniform,  but 
also  because  power  attracts  the  fair  sex  in  the  Trobriands 



as  elsewhere.  These  two  ladies  of  rank  display  an  exact- 
ing taste  in  husbands,  and  indeed  the  fickleness  of  those 
privileged  by  birth  has  become  proverbial  in  the  Tro- 
briands:  "She  likes  the  phallus  as  a  woman  of  guya^u 
(chief)  rank  does." 

But  among  people  of  lower  rank,  also,  there  are  many 
instances  of  a  woman  leaving  her  husband  simply  be- 
cause she  does  not  like  him.  During  my  first  visit  to  the 
Trobriands,  Sayabiya,  a  fine-looking  girl,  bubbling  over 
with  health,  vitality,  and  temperament,  was  quite  happily 
married  to  Tomeda,  who  was  a  handsome,  good-natured 
and  honest,  but  stupid  man.  When  I  returned,  she  had 
.gone  back  to  live  in  her  village  as  an  unmarried  girl, 
simply  because  she  was  tired  of  her  husband.  A  very 
good-looking  girl  of  Oburaku,  Bo'usari,  had  left  two 
husbands,  one  after  the  other,  and,  to  judge  from  her 
intrigues,  was  looking  for  a  third.  Neither  from  her, 
nor  from  the  intimate  gossip  of  the  village,  could  I  get 
any  good  reason  for  her  two  desertions,  and  it  was  ob- 
vious that  she  simply  wanted  to  be  free  again. 

Sometimes  extraneous  conditions,  more  especially  quar- 
rels between  the  husband  and  the  wife's  family,  lead  to 
divorce.  Thus  as  one  result  of  the  quarrel  between 
Namwana  Guya'u  and  Mitakata,  Orayayse,  Mitakata's 
wife,  had  to  leave  her  husband  because  she  belonged  to 
iiis  enemy's  family.  In  a  dispute  between  two  communi- 
ties, marriages  are  often  dissolved  for  the  same  reason. 

An  interesting  case  of  matrimonial  misfortune  which 
Jed  to  divorce  is  that  of  Bagido'u,  the  heir  apparent  of 
Omarakana  (pi.  64).     His  first  wife  and  her  son  died, 



and  he  then  married  Dakiya,  an  extremely  attractive 
woman  who  bore  traces  of  her  good  looks  even  at  the 
somewhat  mature  age  at  which  I  first  saw  her.  Dakiya's 
younger  sister  Kamwalila  was  married  to  Manimuwa,  a 
renowned  sorcerer  of  Wakayse.  Kamwalila  sickened,  and 
her  sister  Dakiya  went  to  nurse  her.  Then  between  her 
and  her  sister's  husband  evil  things  began.  He  made 
love  magic  over  her.  Her  mind  was  influenced,  and  they 
committed  adultery  then  and  there.  When,  after  her 
sister's  death,  Dakiya  returned  to  her  husband  Bagido'u, 
matters  were  not  as  before.  He  found  his  food  tough, 
his  water  brackish,  the  coconut  drinks  bitter,  and  the  betel 
nut  without  a  bite  in  it.  He  would  also  discover  small 
stones  and  bits  of  wood  in  his  lime  pot,  twigs  lying  about 
in  the  road  where  he  used  to  pass,  pieces  of  foreign  mat- 
ter in  his  food.  He  sickened  and  grew  worse  and  worse, 
for  all  these  substances  were,  of  course,  vehicles  of  evil 
magic,  performed  by  his  enemy,  the  sorcerer  Manimuwa, 
assisted  in  this  by  the  faithless  wife.  In  the  meantime, 
his  wife  trysted  with  her  leman. 

Bagido'u  scolded  and  threatened  her  until  one  day  she 
ran  away  and  went  to  live  with  Manimuwa,  an  altogether 
irregular  procedure.  The  power  of  the  chiefs  being  now 
only  a  shadow,  Bagido'u  could  not  use  special  force  to 
bring  her  back 5  so  he  took  another  wife — a  broad-faced, 
sluggish,  and  somewhat  cantankerous  person  by  the  name 
of  Dagiribu'a.  Dakiya  remained  with  her  wizard  lover, 
and  married  him.  The  unfortunate  Bagido'u  who  obvi- 
ously suffers  from  consumption,  a  disease  with  which  all 
his  family  are  more  or  less  tainted,  attributes  his  ills  to 



his  successful  rival's  sorcery,  even  now,  as  he  believes, 
active  against  him.  This  is  very  galling,  for  he  has  the 
injury  of  black  magic  added  to  the  insult  of  his  wife's 
seduction.  When  I  came  back  to  Omarakana  in  191 8,  I 
found  my  friend  Bagido'u  much  worse.  By  now  (1928), 
this  man  of  extraordinary  intelligence,  good  manners, 
and  astounding  memory,  the  last  worthy  depository  of 
the  family  tradition  of  the  Tabalu,  is  no  doubt  dead. 

The  formalities  of  divorce  are  as  simple  as  those  by 
which  marriage  is  contracted.  The  woman  leaves  her 
husband's  house  with  all  her  personal  belongings,  and 
moves  to  her  mother's  hut,  or  to  that  of  her  nearest  ma- 
ternal kinswoman.  There  she  remains,  awaiting  the 
course  of  events,  and  in  the  meantime  enjoying  full 
sexual  freedom.  Her  husband,  as  likely  as  not,  will  try 
to  get  her  back.  He  will  send  certain  friends  with 
"peace  offerings"  {koluluvly  or  lula)  for  the  wife  and  for 
those  with  whom  she  is  staying.  Sometimes  the  gifts 
are  rejected  at  first,  and  then  the  ambassadors  are  sent 
again  and  again.  If  the  woman  accepts  them,  she  has  to 
return  to  her  husband,  divorce  is  ended  and  marriage  re- 
sumed. If  she  means  business,  and  is  determined  not  to 
go  back  to  her  wedded  life,  the  presents  are  never  ac- 
cepted j  then  the  husband  has  to  adjust  himself  as  best 
he  may,  which  means  that  he  begins  to  look  for  another 
girl.  The  dissolution  of  marriage  entails  in  no  case  the 
restitution  of  any  of  the  inaugural  marriage  gifts  ex- 
changed, unless,  as  we  shall  see,  the  divorced  woman 
should  remarry. 

The  girl,  if  she  is  still  young  enough,  now  resumes 
her  prenuptial  life  and  leads  the  free,  untrammelled 



existence  of  a  nakubukwabuya  (unmarried  girl),  entering 
upon  liaison  after  liaison,  and  living  in  bachelors'  houses. 
jOne  of  the  liaisons  may  lengthen  out  and  develop  into  a 
new  marriage.  Then  the  new  husband  must  present  a 
valuable  object  {yaygu^a)  to  his  predecessor,  in  recom- 
pense for  the  one  given  to  the  wife's  family  at  the  begin- 
ning of  the  first  marriage.  The  new  husband  must  also 
give  another  vaygu^a  to  his  wife's  relatives,  and  he  then 
receives  from  them  the  first  annual  harvest  gift — vila- 
kurm — and  the  subsequent  yearly  tribute  in  yams.  It 
seemed  to  me  that  a  divorcee  was  much  more  independ- 
ent of  family  interference  in  choosing  her  new  husband 
than  an  ordinary  unmarried  girl.  The  initial  gifts  of 
food  {fefe^iy  etc.)  are  not  given  in  the  case  of  such  a 
remarriage.  There  is,  apparently,  no  social  stigma  on  a 
girl  or  a  man  who  has  been  married  and  divorced,  al- 
though as  a  matter  of  amour  frofre  no  one  wishes  to 
own  that  he  or  she  has  been  abandoned  by  the  other. 

It  goes  without  saying  that  the  children,  in  case  of  di- 
vorce, always  follow  their  mother  3  and  this  is  no  doubt 
another  reason  why  divorce  is  less  popular  with  men  than 
with  women.  During  the  interim,  when  their  mother  is 
living  as  a  spinster,  they  remain  in  the  household  of  her 
nearest  married  maternal  relative. 


When  a  man  dies,  his  wife  is  not  set  free  by  the  event. 
It  may  be  said  without  paradox  that,  in  a  way,  the  strictest 
and  heaviest  shackles  of  marriage  are  laid  on  her  after 



the  real  tie  has  been  dissolved  by  death.  Custom  com- 
pels her  to  play  the  burdensome  role  of  chief  mourner  5 
to  make  an  ostentatious,  dramatic,  and  extremely  onerous 
display  of  grief  for  her  husband  from  the  moment  of  his 
demise  until  months,  at  times  years,  afterwards.  She  has 
to  fulfil  her  part  under  the  vigilant  eyes  of  the  public, 
jealous  of  exact  compliance  with  traditional  morals,  and 
under  the  more  suspicious  surveillance  of  the  dead  man's 
kindred,  who  regard  it  as  a  special  and  grievous  offence 
to  their  family's  honour  if  she  flags  for  a  single  moment 
in  her  duty.  The  same  applies  in  a  smaller  degree  to  a 
widower,  but  in  his  case  the  mourning  is  less  elaborate 
and  burdensome,  and  the  vigilance  not  so  relentless. 

The  ritual  in  the  early  stages  of  widowhood  reveals  in 
a  direct  and  intimate  manner  a  most  interesting  complex 
of  ideas — some  very  crude  and  quaint — concerning  kin- 
ship, the  nature  of  marriage,  and  the  purely  social  ties 
between  father  and  children.  The  whole  mortuary  ritual 
is,  in  fact,  perhaps  the  most  difficult  and  bewildering 
aspect  of  Trobriand  culture  for  the  investigating  sociolo- 
gist. In  the  overgrowth  of  ceremonial,  in  the  inextricable 
maze  of  obligations  and  counter-obligations,  stretching 
out  into  a  long  series  of  ritual  acts,  there  is  to  be  found 
a  whole  world  of  conceptions — social,  moral,  and  mytho- 
logical— the  majority  of  which  struck  me  as  quite  unex- 
pected and  difficult  to  reconcile  with  the  generally  accepted 
views  of  the  human  attitude  towards  death  and  mourning. 

Throughout  this  ritual,  the  unfortunate  remains  of  the 
man  are  constantly  worried.  His  body  is  twice  exhumed  5 
it  is  cut  up  5  some  of  its  bones  are  peeled  out  of  the  car- 



cass,  are  handled,  are  given  to  one  party  and  then  to 
another,  until  at  last  they  come  to  a  final  rest.  And  what 
makes  the  whole  performance  most  disconcerting  is  the 
absence  of  the  real  protagonist — Hamlet  without  the 
Prince  of  Denmark.  For  the  spirit  of  the  dead  man 
knows  nothing  about  all  that  happens  to  his  body  and 
bones,  and  cares  less,  since  he  is  already  leading  a  happy 
existence  in  Tuma,  the  netherworld,  having  breathed  of 
the  magic  of  oblivion  and  formed  new  ties  (see  ch.  xii, 
sec.  5).  The  ritual  performances  at  his  twice-opened 
grave  and  over  his  buried  remains,  and  all  that  is  done 
with  his  relics,  are  merely  a  social  game,  where  the  various 
groupings  into  which  the  community  has  re-crystallized 
at  his  death  play  against  each  other.  This,  I  must  add 
with  great  emphasis,  represents  the  actual  contemporary 
view  of  the  natives,  and  contains  no  hypothetical  refer- 
ence to  the  origins  or  past  history  of  this  institution. 
Whether  the  dead  man  always  had  his  spiritual  back 
turned  on  the  Trobriand  mortuary  ritual,  or  whether  his 
spirit  has  gradually  evaporated  from  it — it  is  not  for  the 
field-worker  to  decide.  In  this  context  we  shall  have  to 
confine  ourselves  to  the  study  of  mortuary  practices  in 
their  barest  outline  only.  A  complete  account  of  them 
would  easily  fill  a  volume  of  the  present  size.  We  shall, 
therefore,  select  such  features  as  throw  light  on  the  ties 
of  marriage,  and  on  the  ideas  of  kinship  and  relationship  5 
and  even  this  will  have  to  be  done  in  a  somewhat  sche- 
matic and  simplified  form.^ 

1  Compare  the  brief  account  of  these  ceremonies  among  the  Northern 
Massim,  by  Professor  C.  G.  Seligman,  The  Melanesians  .of  British  Neio 



Let  us  take  the  death  of  a  man  of  consequence  in  the 
fulness  of  age,  leaving  behind  a  widow,  several  children 
and  brothers.  From  the  moment  of  his  death,  the  dis- 
tinction between  his  real,  that  is  matrilineal,  kinsmen 
iyeyola)  on  the  one  hand,  and  his  children,  relatives-in- 
law  and  friends  on  the  other,  takes  on  a  sharp  and  even 
an  outwardly  visible  form.  The  kinsmen  of  the  deceased 
fall  under  a  taboo  3  they  must  keep  aloof  from  the  corpse. 
They  are  not  allowed  either  to  wash  or  adorn  or  fondle 
or  bury  it  5  for  if  they  were  to  touch  or  to  come  near  it, 
pernicious  influences  from  the  body  would  attack  them 
and  cause  their  disease  and  death.  These  pernicious  in- 
fluences are  conceived  in  the  form  of  a  material  exhala- 
tion, issuing  from  the  corpse  and  polluting  the  air.  It  is 
called  bwauloy  a  word  which  also  designates  the  cloud  of 
smoke  which  surrounds  a  village  especially  on  steamy, 
calm  days.  The  necrogenic  hwauloy  invisible  to  common 
eyes,  appears  to  a  witch  or  sorcerer  as  a  black  cloud 
shrouding  the  village.  It  is  innocuous  to  strangers,  but 
dangerous  to  kinsmen  (ch.  xiii,  sec.  i). 

The  kindred  must  also  not  display  any  outward  signs 
of  mourning  in  costume  and  ornamentation,  though  they 
need  not  conceal  their  grief  and  may  show  it  by  weeping. 
Here  the  underlying  idea  is  that  the  maternal  kinsmen 
{yeyola)  are  hit  in  their  own  persons  5  that  each  one  suf- 
fers because  the  whole  sub-clan  to  which  they  belong  has 
been  maimed  by  the  loss  of  one  of  its  members.  "As  if 
a  limb  were  cut  off,  or  a  branch  lopped  from  a  tree." 
Thus,  though  they  need  not  hide  their  grief,  they  must 
not  parade  it.     This  abstention  from  outward  mourning 



extends,  not  only  to  all  the  members  of  the  sub-clan  be- 
yond the  real  kinsmen,  but  to  all  the  members  of  the  clan 
to  which  the  dead  man  belonged.  On  the  other  hand, 
the  taboo  against  touching  the  corpse  applies  primarily  to 
the  members  of  the  sub-clan  and  especially  to  the  actual 
kinsmen,  to  whom,  of  course,  the  temptation  to  touch  the 
corpse,  as  an  expression  of  love,  would  be  strongest. 

Quite  different,  in  the  native  idea,  is  the  relation  of  the 
widow,  and  of  the  children  and  relatives-in-law,  to  the 
dead  and  to  his  corpse.  They  ought,  according  to  the 
moral  code,  to  suffer  and  to  feel  bereaved.  But  in  feeling 
thus  they  are  not  suffering  directly  j  they  are  not  griev- 
ing for  a  loss  which  affects  their  own  sub-clan  (dala)  and 
therefore  their  own  persons.  Their  grief  is  not  sponta- 
neous like  that  of  the  veyola  (maternal  kinsmen),  but  a 
duty  almost  artificial,  springing  as  it  does  from  acquired 
obligations.  Therefore  they  must  ostentatiously  express 
their  grief,  display  it,  and  bear  witness  to  it  by  outward 
signs.  If  they  did  not,  they  would  offend  the  surviving 
members  of  the  dead  man's  sub-clan.  Thus  an  interest- 
ing situation  develops,  giving  rise  to  a  most  strange  spec- 
tacle: a  few  hours  after  the  death  of  a  notable,  the  vil- 
lage is  thronged  by  people,  with  their  heads  shaven,  the 
whole  body  thickly  smeared  with  soot,  and  howling  like 
demons  in  despair.  And  these  are  the  non-kinsmen  of  the 
dead  man,  the  people  not  actually  bereaved.  In  contrast  to 
these  a  number  of  others  are  to  be  seen  in  their  usual  at- 
tire, outwardly  calm  and  behaving  as  if  nothing  had  hap- 
pened. These  represent  the  sub-clan  and  clan  of  the  de- 
ceased, and  are  the  actually  bereaved.    Thus  by  a  devious 



reasoning,  tradition  and  custom  produce  the  reverse  of 
what  would  seem  natural  and  obvious  to  us  or  any  ob- 
server from  almost  any  other  culture. 

Among  those  who  display  their  grief,  it  is  easy  to  dis- 
tinguish several  groups  and  grades.  There  is  the  rank 
and  file  of  mourners,  comprising  all  the  people  belonging 
to  the  remaining  three  clans  j  for,  when  a  notable  dies, 
everyone  in  the  village  community  puts  on  mourning, 
except  the  members  of  his  own  clan.  A  small  group  is 
busy  about  the  body  and  the  grave  3  this  consists  of  the 
male  children  and  brothers-in-law  of  the  deceased.  Near- 
est to  the  corpse  and  plunged  most  deeply  in  the  mimicry 
of  grief  are  seated  a  few  women,  among  whom  one,  the 
widow,  is  conspicuous,  supported  by  her  daughters  and 
sisters.  In  this  group,  and  it  may  be  in  that  of  the  sons 
also,  an  observer  well  acquainted  with  these  natives  would 
be  able  to  distinguish  an  interesting  interplay  of  feigned 
and  merely  histrionic  grief  with  real  and  heartfelt  sorrow. 


With  this  sociological  scheme  before  us,  we  can  now 
follow  the  sequence  of  event  and  ritual  which  begins 
automatically  with  a  man's  death.  When  death  is  seen 
to  be  approaching,  the  wife  and  children,  kinsmen  and 
relatives-in-law  crowd  round  the  bed,  filling  the  small 
hut  to  overflowing.  The  consummation  of  death  is 
-marked  by  a  frantic  outburst  of  wailing.     The  widow, 



who  generally  stands  at  the  head  of  the  dying  man,  ut- 
ters the  first  piercing  shriek,  to  which  immediately  other 
women  respond,  till  the  village  is  filled  with  the  strange 
harmonies  of  the  melodious  dirge.  From  this  moment 
all  the  varied  activities  of  the  days,  and  even  weeks, 
which  follow  will  be  carried  on  to  the  choral  accompani- 
ment of  a  long-drawn  wail  which  never  stops  for  one 
instant.  At  times  it  swells  up  in  violent  and  discordant 
gusts  3  then  ebbs  again  into  soft,  melodious  strains,  mu- 
sically well  expressing  sorrow.  To  me,  this  powerful 
uneven  stream  of  sound,  flowing  over  the  village  and 
enveloping  as  it  were  all  these  human  beings  in  a  feeble, 
imbecile  protest  against  death,  became  symbolic  of  all 
that  was  deeply  human  and  real  in  the  otherwise  stifF, 
conventional,  incomprehensible  ritual  of  mourning. 

First  the  corpse  is  washed,  anointed,  and  covered  with 
ornaments  (pis.  32  and  33),  then  the  bodily  apertures 
are  filled  with  coconut  husk  fibre,  the  legs  tied  together, 
and  the  arms  bound  to  the  sides.  Thus  prepared,  it  is 
placed  on  the  knees  of  a  row  of  women  who  sit  on  the 
floor  of  the  hut,  with  the  widow  or  widower  at  one  end 
holding  the  head.^  They  fondle  the  corpse,  stroke  the 
skin  with  caressing  hands,  press  valuable  objects  against 
chest  and  abdomen,  move  the  limbs  slightly  and  agitate 
the  head.  The  body  is  thus  made  to  move  and  twist  with 
slow  and  ghastly  gestures  to  the  rhythm  of  the  incessant 
wailing.  The  hut  is  full  of  mourners,  all  intoning  the 
melodious  lamentation.     Tears  flow  from  their  eyes  and 

1  Cf.  pi.  Ixv  in  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  where  this  act  is  re- 
constructed outside  the  hut  for  purposes  of  photography  and  the  widow 
is  replaced  by  the  son. 



mucus  from  their  noses,  and  all  the  liquids  of  grief 
are  carefully  displayed  and  smeared  over  their  bodies 
or  otherwise  conspicuously  disposed.  Outside,  certain 
women,  usually  relatives-in-law  of  the  dead  man,  per- 
form a  slow  rhythmic  dance  (the  vaysalt)  with  relics  in 
their  hands  (pi.  ii). 

The  sons  in  the  meantime  dig  the  grave,  which  in  olden 
days  was  always  on  the  central  place  of  the  village,  but 
which  now,  by  the  white  man's  decree,  must  be  on  the 
outskirts.  A  few  hours  after  death  the  body  is  laid  in  it, 
wrapped  in  mats,  and  is  covered  with  logs,  which  leave  a 
shallow  space  above.  On  this  layer  of  logs  the  widow 
lies  down  to  keep  vigil  over  the  corpse.  Her  daughter 
may  be  beside  her  j  round  the  brink  of  the  grave  are  her 
sisters,  kinswomen  and  friends,  and  the  other  relatives- 
in-law  of  the  dead  man.  As  night  draws  on,  the  central 
place  fills  with  people  j  for  even  nowadays  the  white 
man's  regulations  against  burial  in  the  baku  are  circum- 
vented by  making  a  temporary  grave  there,  or  placing  the 
corpse  on  the  ground.  Here  the  mourners,  the  kinsmen, 
all  the  villagers  and  many  guests  from  far  afield  congre- 
gate to  hold  a  most  remarkable  wake  {yawali). 

The  chief  mourners  and  kinsmen  in  appropriate  groups 
keep  the  central  position  round  the  grave.  Outside  this 
inner  ring,  the  villagers  and  guests  are  seated,  each  com- 
munity in  a  separate  body,  their  mood  and  behaviour  be- 
coming less  tragic  as  they  are  farther  removed  from  the 
corpse,  until  on  the  outskirts  of  the  crowd,  we  find  people 
in  animated  conversation,  eating  and  chewing  betel  nut. 
The  central  group  of  mourners  intones  the  deep  wail  of 



sorrow,  the  others  sing  songs,  and,  as  the  night  goes  on, 
people  will  stand  up  and  recite  fragments  of  magic  in 
honour  of  the  departed,  chanting  them  over  the  heads  of 
the  crowd. 

The  body  is  not  allowed  to  remain  long  in  peace — if 
the  weird,  noisy,  and  discordant  din  of  singing,  wailing, 
and  haranguing  can  be  so  described.  On  the  following 
evening,  the  body  is  exhumed,  and  inspected  for  signs  of 
sorcery  (see  pi.  33).  Such  an  inspection  yields  most  im- 
portant clues,  as  to  who  caused  the  death  by  witchcraft 
and  for  what  motive  this  was  done.  I  have  assisted  at 
this  ceremony  several  times  5  the  photograph  for  plate  33 
was  taken  during  the  first  exhumation  of  Ineykoya,  wife 
of  Toyodala,  my  best  informant  in  Oburaku.^ 

Before  daybreak  after  the  first  exhumation,  the  body 
is  taken  out  of  the  grave,  and  some  of  the  bones  are  re- 
moved from  it.  This  anatomical  operation  is  done  by  the 
man's  sons,  who  keep  some  of  the  bones  as  relics  and  dis- 
tribute the  others  to  certain  of  their  relatives.  This  prac- 
tice has  been  strictly  forbidden  by  the  Government — 
another  instance  of  the  sacrifice  of  most  sacred  religious 
custom  to  the  prejudice  and  moral  susceptibilities  of  the 
"civilized"  white.  Yet  the  Trobrianders  are  so  deeply 
attached  to  this  custom  that  it  is  still  clandestinely  per- 
formed, and  I  have  seen  the  jaw-bone  of  a  man  with 
whom  I  had  spoken  a  few  days  before  dangling  from  the 
neck  of  his  widow  (see  pis.  34,  25y  and  2^^). 

The  excision  of  the  bones  and  their  subsequent  use  as 

1  For  further  information  about  the  signs  of  sorcery,  see  Crime  and 
Custom,  pp.  87-91. 



relics  is  an  act  of  piety  5  the  process  of  detaching  them 
from  the  putrefying  corpse,  a  heavy,  repugnant,  and  dis- 
gusting duty.  The  sons  of  the  deceased  are  expected  by 
custom  to  curb  and  conceal  their  disgust,  and  to  suck  some 
of  the  decaying  matter  when  they  are  cleaning  the  bones. 
Speaking  with  virtuous  pride  they  will  say:  "I  have  sucked 
the  radius  bone  of  my  father  5  I  had  to  go  away  and 
vomit  3  I  came  back  and  went  on."  After  they  have 
cleansed  the  bones,  which  is  always  done  on  the  seashore, 
they  return  to  the  village,  and  the  dead  man's  kinswomen 
ceremonially  "wash  their  mouths"  by  giving  them  food 
and  purify  their  hands  with  coconut  oil.  The  bones  are 
converted  to  various  purposes,  serviceable  and  ornamental : 
the  skull  is  made  into  a  lime  pot  to  be  used  by  the  widow 5 
the  jaw-bone  is  turned  into  a  neck  ornament  to  hang  on 
her  breast  5  the  radius,  ulna,  tibia,  and  some  other  bones 
are  carved  into  lime  spatulas  to  be  used  with  betel  and 
areca  nut. 

A  curious  mixed  sentiment  underlies  this  complex  of 
customs.  On  the  one  hand,  it  should  be  the  wish  of  the 
widow  and  children  to  keep  a  part  of  the  beloved  dead. 
"The  relic  {kayvaluha)  brings  the  departed  back  to  our 
mind  and  makes  our  inside  tender."  On  the  other  hand, 
the  use  of  these  relics  is  regarded  as  a  harsh  and  un- 
pleasant duty,  as  a  sort  of  pious  repayment  for  all  the 
benefits  received  from  the  father.  As  it  was  explained 
to  me:  "Our  mind  is  grieved  for  the  man  who  has  fed 
us,  who  has  given  us  dainties  to  eat  5  we  suck  his  bones 
as  lime  spatulse."  Or  again:  "It  is  right  that  a  child 
should  suck  the  father's  ulna.     For  the  father  has  held 



out  his  hand  to  its  excrement  and  allowed  it  to  make 
water  on  to  his  knee"  (compare  similar  locutions  quoted 
in  section  3  of  chapter  i).  Thus  the  use  of  relics  is  at 
the  same  time  a  relief  to  the  bereaved  widow  and  chil- 
dren, and  an  act  of  filial  piety  which  must  be  rigorously- 

To  the  dead  man's  maternal  kinsmen  (veyola)  the  use 
of  his  bones  is  strictly  tabooed.  If  they  broke  this  taboo 
they  would  fall  ill,  their  bellies  would  swell  and  they 
might  die.  The  contact  is  most  dangerous  when  the  bone 
is  still  wet  with  the  dead  man's  bodily  juices.  When, 
after  a  few  years,  the  bones  are  handed  over  to  the  kins- 
men, they  are  presented  carefully  wrapped  in  dry  leaves, 
and  are  then  only  gingerly  handled  by  them.  They  are 
finally  deposited  on  rocky  shelves  overlooking  the  sea. 
Thus  the  bones  pass  several  times  from  hand  to  hand  be- 
fore they  come  to  their  final  rest. 

More  distant  relatives-in-law  and  friends  of  the  dead 
man  have  his  nails,  teeth  and  hair,  which  they  make  into 
all  sorts  of  mourning  ornaments  and  wear  as  relics.  The 
dead  man's  personal  possessions  are  used  in  the  same  way, 
and  nowadays,  when  the  bodily  relics  have  frequently  to 
be  concealed,  this  practice  is  very  much  in  favour  (see 

After  the  second  exhumation  the  body  is  buried,  the 
wake  is  over,  and  the  people  disperse  5  but  the  widow, 
who,  during  all  this  time,  has  not  stirred  from  her  hus- 
band's side,  nor  eaten  nor  drunk  nor  stopped  in  her  wail- 
ing, is  not  yet  released.  Instead  she  moves  into  a  small 
cage,  built  within  her  house,  where  she  will  remain  for 



months  together,  observing  the  strictest  taboos.  She  must 
not  leave  the  place  j  she  may  only  speak  in  whispers  j  she 
must  not  touch  food  or  drink  with  her  own  hands,  but 
wait  till  they  are  put  into  her  mouth  j  she  remains  closed 
up  in  the  dark,  without  fresh  air  or  light  5  her  body  is 
thickly  smeared  over  with  soot  and  grease,  which  will  not 
be  washed  oflF  for  a  long  time.  She  satisfies  all  the  neces- 
sities of  life  indoors,  and  the  excreta  have  to  be  carried 
out  by  her  relatives.  Thus  she  lives  for  months  shut  up 
in  a  low-roofed,  stuflFy,  pitch-dark  space,  so  small  that 
with  outstretched  hands  she  can  almost  touch  the  walls 
on  either  sidej  it  is  often  filled  with  people  who  assist  or 
comfort  her,  and  pervaded  by  an  indescribable  atmosphere 
of  human  exhalations,  accumulated  bodily  filth,  stale 
food,  and  smoke.  Also  she  is  under  the  more  or  less 
active  control  and  surveillance  of  her  husband's  matri- 
lineal  relatives,  who  regard  her  mourning  and  its  inherent 
privations  as  their  due.  When  the  term  of  her  widow- 
hood has  almost  run  its  course — ^its  length  depends  upon 
the  status  of  her  husband  and  varies  from  about  six 
months  to  two  years — she  is  gradually  released  by  the 
dead  man's  kinsmen.  Food  is  put  into  her  mouth  accord- 
ing to  a  ritual  which  gives  her  permission  to  eat  with  her 
own  hands.  Then,  ceremonially,  she  is  allowed  to  speak  j 
finally  she  is  released  from  the  taboo  of  confinement  and, 
still  with  appropriate  ritual,  requested  to  walk  forth.  At 
the  ceremony  of  her  complete  release  by  the  female 
veyola  of  the  dead  man,  the  widow  is  washed  and 
anointed,  and  dressed  in  a  new  gaudy  grass  skirt  in  three 
colours.     This  makes  her  marriageable  again. 




Throughout  the  rigorous  ritual  of  mourning,  in  which 
the  widow,  the  orphans,  and  to  a  much  lesser  degree  the 
other  relatives-in-law  of  the  deceased  are  caught  and  held 
as  in  a  vise,  we  can  observe  the  working  of  certain  ideas 
belonging  to  the  tribal  tradition  of  the  Trobrianders. 
One  especially,  the  taboo  on  maternal  kinsmen,  which 
forces  them  to  keep  aloof  since  it  is  both  dangerous  to 
approach  the  corpse  and  superfluous  to  show  grief,  is 
strikingly  visible  throughout  the  whole  course  of  burial, 
exhumation,  and  grave-tending.  The  corresponding  idea, 
that  it  is  the  imperative  duty  of  the  widow  and  her  rela- 
tives to  show  grief  and  perform  all  the  mortuary  services, 
emphasizes  the  strength  and  the  permanence  of  marriage 
bonds  as  viewed  by  tradition.  It  is  also  a  posthumous 
continuation  of  the  remarkable  system  of  services  which 
have  to  be  given  to  a  married  man  by  his  wife's  family, 
including  the  woman  herself  and  her  children. 

In  the  mortuary  phase  of  these  services,  however,  the 
dead  man's  sub-clan  have  to  render  payment  more  strictly 
and  more  frequently  than  he  had  to  do  in  his  life-time. 
Immediately  after  the  bones  have  been  cut  out  and  the 
remains  buried,  the  dead  man's  sub-clan  organize  the  first 
big  distribution  of  food  and  valuables,  in  which  the  widow, 
children,  and  other  relatives-in-law,  as  well  as  the  unre- 
lated mourners,  are  richly  paid  for  the  various  services 
rendered  in  tending  the  corpse  and  digging  the  grave. 



Other  distributions  follow  at  stated  intervals.  There  is 
one  expressly  for  women  mourners  5  one  for  the  tenders 
of  the  grave  j  one  for  the  rank  and  file  of  mourners  j  one, 
by  far  the  largest,  in  which  presents  of  valuables  and  enor- 
mous quantities  of  food  are  given  to  the  widow  and  chil- 
dren, in  so  far  as  they,  in  grief  and  piety,  have  used  the 
bones  of  the  dead  man  for  their  lime-chewing  or  as  orna- 
ments. This  intricate  series  of  distributions  stretches  out 
into  years,  and  it  entails  a  veritable  tangle  of  obligations 
and  duties  3  for  the  members  of  the  deceased's  sub-clan 
must  provide  food  and  give  it  to  the  chief  organizer,  the 
headman  of  the  sub-clan,  who  collects  it  and  then  dis- 
tributes it  to  the  proper  beneficiaries.  These,  in  their 
turn,  partially  at  least,  re-distribute  it.  And  each  gift  in 
this  enormous  complex  trails  its  own  wake  of  counter- 
gifts  and  obligations  to  be  fulfilled  at  a  future  date. 

The  ostentation  with  which  the  widow  and  children 
have  to  display  their  grief,  the  thickness — ^literally  and 
metaphorically  speaking — with  which  they  put  on  their 
mourning  are  indeed  striking  3  and  the  underlying  com- 
plex psychology  of  these  things  must  have  become  ap- 
parent in  the  above  account.  In  the  first  place,  it  is  a 
duty  towards  the  dead  and  towards  his  sub-clan,  a  duty 
strongly  enjoined  by  the  code  of  morals  and  guarded  by 
public  opinion,  as  well  as  by  the  kinsmen.  "Our  tears — 
they  are  for  the  kinsmen  of  our  father  to  see,"  as  one  of 
the  mourners  simply  and  directly  told  me.  In  the  second 
place,  it  demonstrates  to  the  world  at  large  that  the  wife 
and  children  were  really  good  to  the  dead  and  that  they 
took  great  care  of  him  in  his  illness.    Lastly,  and  this  is 



very  important,  it  allays  any  suspicion  of  their  complicity 
in  his  murder  by  black  magic.  To  understand  the  last 
queer  motive,  one  has  to  realize  the  extreme  fear,  the 
ever-vigilant  suspicion  of  sorcery,  and  the  unusual  lack 
of  trust  in  anyone  at  all  with  reference  to  it.  The  Tro- 
brianders,  in  common  with  all  races  at  their  culture  level, 
regard  every  death  without  exception  as  an  act  of  sorcery, 
unless  it  is  caused  by  suicide  or  by  a  visible  accident,  such 
as  poisoning  or  a  spear  thrust.  It  is  characteristic  of  their 
idea  of  the  bonds  of  marriage  and  fatherhood — ^which 
they  regard  as  artificial  and  untrustworthy  under  any 
strain — that  the  principal  suspicion  of  sorcery  attaches  al- 
ways to  the  wife  and  children.  The  real  interest  in  a 
man's  welfare,  the  real  affection,  the  natural  innocence  of 
any  attempt  against  him  are,  by  the  traditional  system  of 
ideas,  attributed  to  his  maternal  kinsmen.  His  wife  and 
children  are  mere  strangers,  and  custom  persists  in  ignor- 
ing any  real  identity  of  interest  between  them.^ 

How  utterly  this  traditional  view  is  generally  at  vari- 
ance with  the  economic  and  psychological  reality,  has 
been  shown,  and  illustrated  by  many  facts  in  chapter  i, 
sections  i  and  2.  For,  apart  from  the  personal  attach- 
ment which  always  exists  between  husband  and  wife, 
father  and  children,  it  is  clear  that  a  man's  children  lose 
more  at  his  death  than  do  his  kinsmen,  who,  as  his  heirs, 
always  gain  materially,  especially  in  the  case  of  a  man  of 
wealth,  rank,  and  importance.    And,  in  reality,  the  actual 

1  Even  this  is  a  simplified  account,  one  in  which  the  ideal  of  native  law 
and  tradition  is  emphasized,  as  is  always  done  by  the  natives  themselves. 
The  full  account  of  native  ideas  about  sorcery  in  relation  to  kinship  and 
relationship  by  marriage  will  have  to  be  postponed  to  a  later  publication. 



feelings  of  the  survivors  run  their  natural  course  inde- 
pendently of  the  mimic  and  official  display  of  grief.  The 
existence  of  an  individual  reality  of  thought,  sentiment, 
and  impulse,  unfolding  itself  side  by  side  with  the  con- 
ventional sentiment  and  idea  contained  in  and  imposed  by 
a  traditional  pattern,  is  one  of  the  most  important  sub- 
jects of  social  psychology — a  subject  on  which  we  need 
more  material  from  ethnological  investigation,  carried 
on  with  a  good  deal  of  detail  and  based  upon  personal 
knowledge  of  the  savages  observed. 

In  the  Trobriands,  the  genuine  sorrow  of  the  widow 
and  children  is  blurred,  overlaid,  and  made  almost  un- 
recognizable by  the  histrionic  display  of  grief.  But  their 
real  feelings  can  be  gauged  by  observing  their  behaviour 
at  other  times,  especially  under  critical  conditions.  I 
have  seen  more  than  one  case  of  a  husband  sitting  night 
after  night  at  his  sick  wife's  bedside.  I  have  seen  his 
Jiopes  surge  and  ebb,  and  unmistakable,  even  deep,  de- 
spair set  in  as  the  apparent  chances  of  survival  waned. 
Differences  are  clearly  distinguishable  in  the  sorrow  of 
■widows  and  widowers,  some  merely  conforming  to  cus- 
tom, others  genuinely  grieving.  To'uluwa,  the  chief, 
though  a  rather  selfish  and  shallow  character,  could  not 
•speak  about  the  death  of  Kadamwasila,  his  favourite  wife, 
without  visible  and  real  emotion.  Toyodala,  the  nicest 
man  I  knew  in  Oburaku  (see  pi.  2^2)7  was  for  weeks  anx- 
iously watching  his  wife's  illness,  and  hoping  for  her  re- 
covery. When  she  died,  he  behaved  at  first  like  a  mad- 
man, and  then,  during  his  mourning  confinement,  in 
which  I  often  visited  him,  he  wept  so  bitterly  that  his 



eyesight  suffered.  There  is  no  doubt  at  all  that  the 
kinsmen  feel  the  personal  loss  much  less.  On  the  other 
hand,  their  conventional  sentiment  of  bereavement  and 
realization  of  the  maiming  of  their  group  do  not  leave 
them  unaffected.  But  here  we  enter  upon  a  problem, 
that  of  feelings  and  ideas  relating  to  the  solidarity  of  the 
clan,  which,  if  followed  up,  would  take  us  too  far  away 
from  our  subject. 

The  study  of  marriage  has  led  us  away  from  the  study 
of  sex  in  the  narrower  sense  of  the  word.  We  have  had 
to  consider  questions  of  social  organization,  and  the  legal, 
economic,  and  religious  setting  of  the  relation  between 
husband  and  wife,  parents  and  children.  This  last  sub- 
ject, parenthood,  will  still  occupy  us  in  the  next  two 
chapters,  before  we  pass  to  the  detailed  analysis  of  the 
sexual  impulse  in  its  cultural  manifestations  among  our 




The  dependence  o£  social  organization  in  a  given  society 
upon  the  ideas,  beliefs,  and  sentiments  current  there  is  of 
primary  importance  to  the  anthropologist.  Among  sav- 
age races  we  often  find  unexpected  and  fantastic  views 
about  natural  processes,  and  correspondingly  extreme  and 
one-sided  developments  of  social  organization  as  regards 
kinship,  communal  authority,  and  tribal  constitution.  In 
this  chapter  I  shall  give  an  account  of  the  Trobrianders' 
idea  of  the  human  organism  as  it  affects  their  beliefs  about 
procreation  and  gestation,  beliefs  which  are  embodied  in 
oral  tradition,  customs,  and  ceremonies,  and  which  exer- 
cise a  deep  influence  on  the  social  facts  of  kinship  and  on 
the  matrilineal  constitution  of  the  tribe. 


The  natives  have  a  practical  acquaintance  with  the 
main  features  of  the  human  anatomy,  and  an  extensive 
vocabulary  for  the  various  parts  of  the  human  body  and 
for  the  internal  organs.  They  often  cut  up  pigs  and 
other  animals,  while  the  custom  of  fost  mortem  dissec- 



tion  of  corpses,  and  visits  among  their  overseas  cannibal 
neighbours  supply  them  with  an  exact  knowledge  of  the 
homologies  of  the  human  and  animal  organism.  Their 
physiological  theories,  on  the  other  hand,  are  remarkably 
defective  3  there  are  many  notable  gaps  in  their  knowledge 
about  the  functions  of  the  most  important  organs,  side 
by  side  with  some  fantastic  and  strange  ideas. 

Their  understanding  of  sexual  anatomy  is,  on  the 
whole,  limited  in  comparison  with  what  they  know  about 
other  parts  of  the  human  body.  Considering  the  great 
interest  which  they  take  in  this  matter,  the  distinctions 
which  they  make  are  superficial  and  rough,  and  their 
terminology  meagre.  They  distinguish  and  name  the 
following  parts:  vagina  {wila)^  clitoris  {kasesa)^  penis 
{kwila)y  testes  {fuwala).  They  have  no  words  to  de- 
scribe the  mons  veneris  as  a  whole,  nor  the  labia  major  a 
and  minora.  The  glans  fenis  they  describe  as  the  "point" 
of  the  penis  {matala  kwila)  and  the  prepuce  as  the  skin 
of  the  penis  {kanivinela  kwila).  The  internal  female 
organs  are  called  generically  bam^  and  this  comprises  the 
uterus  and  the  placenta.  There  is  no  special  word  for 
the  ovaries. 

Their  physiological  views  are  crude.  The  organs,  of 
sex  serve  for  excretion  and  for  pleasure.  The  excretive 
urinary  processes  are  not  associated  with  the  kidneys.  A 
narrow  duct  {wotuna)  leads  from  the  stomach  directly  to 
the  bladder,  from  which  it  passes  through  the  male  and 
female  genitals.  Through  this  canal  the  water  which  we 
drink  passes  slowly  till  it  is  expelled,  and  on  its  way  it 
becomes  discoloured  and  sullied  in  the  stomach  by  contact 



with  excrement.  For  food  begins  to  be  changed  into 
excrement  in  the  stomach. 

Their  ideas  about  the  sexual  functions  of  the  genitals 
are  more  complex  and  systematic,  and  present  a  sort  of 
psycho-physiological  theory.  The  eyes  are  the  seat  of 
desire  and  lust  (magila  kayta^  literally  "desire  of  copu- 
lation"). They  are  the  basis  or  cause  (u^ula)  of  sexual 
passion.  From  the  eyes,  desire  is  carried  to  the  brain  by 
means  of  the  wotuna  (literally,  tendril  or  creeper  j  in  the 
anatomical  context,  vein,  nerve,  duct,  or  sinew),  and 
thence  spreads  all  over  the  body  to  the  belly,  the  arms, 
the  legs,  until  it  finally  concentrates  in  the  kidneys.  The 
kidneys  are  considered  the  main  or  middle  part  or  trunk 
{tafwand)  of  the  system.  From  them,  other  ducts 
(wo tuna)  lead  to  the  male  organ.  This  is  the  tip  or 
point  (matalay  literally  eye)  of  the  whole  system.  Thus, 
when  the  eyes  see  an  object  of  desire  they  "wake  up," 
communicate  the  impulse  to  the  kidneys,  which  transmit 
it  to  the  penis  and  cause  an  erection.  Hence  the  eyes  are 
the  primary  motive  of  all  sexual  excitement:  they  are  "the 
things  of  copulation"  3  they  are  "that  which  makes  us  de- 
sire to  copulate."  In  proof  of  this  the  natives  say:  "A 
man  with  his  eyes  closed  will  have  no  erection"  3  though 
they  qualify  this  statement  by  admitting  that  the  olfac- 
tory sense  can  sometimes  replace  the  eyes,  for  "when  a 
woman  discards  her  grass  petticoat  in  the  dark,  desire  may 
be  aroused." 

The  process  of  sexual  excitement  in  the  female  is 
analogous.  Thus  the  eyes,  the  kidneys  and  the  sexual 
organs  are  united  by  the  same  system  of  wo  tuna  (com- 



municating  ducts).  The  eyes  give  the  alarm,  which  passes 
through  the  body,  takes  possession  of  the  kidneys,  and 
produces  sexual  excitation  of  the  clitoris.  Both  the  male 
and  female  discharge  are  called  by  the  same  name 
(jnomona  or  momold)^  and  they  ascribe  to  both  the  same 
origin  in  the  kidneys,  and  the  same  function,  which  has 
nothing  to  do  with  generation,  but  is  concerned  with 
lubricating  the  membrane  and  increasing  pleasure. 

I  first  obtained  this  account  of  the  subject  from  Nam- 
wana  Guya'u  and  Piribomatu,  the  former  an  amateur  and 
the  latter  a  professional  sorcerer  ^  both  were  intelligent 
men  and  both,  in  virtue  of  their  profession,  were  inter- 
ested in  human  anatomy  and  physiology.  Thus  it  repre- 
sents the  highest  development  of  Trobriand  knowledge 
and  theory.  I  obtained  similar  statements  in  other  parts 
of  the  island,  and  in  their  main  outline — such  as  the 
sexual  functions  of  the  kidneys,  the  great  importance  of 
the  eyes  and  the  olfactory  sense,  and  the  strict  parallel 
between  male  and  female  sexuality — all  were  in  agree- 

And  on  the  whole,  it  is  a  fairly  consisteiit,  and  not 
altogether  nonsensical  view  of  the  psycho-physiology  of 
sexual  libido.  The  drawing  of  a  parallel  between  the 
two  sexes  is  consistent.  The  indication  of  the  three  car- 
dinal points  of  the  sexual  system  is  sound,  and  character- 
istic of  native  canons  of  classification.  In  many  subjects 
they  distinguish  these  three  elements:  the  uWlay  the  taf- 
wanay  and  the  matala.  The  image  is  derived  from  a  tree 
or  a  pillar  or  a  spear:  u^ula — in  its  literal  sense  the  foot 
of  the  tree,  the  base,  the  foundation — has  come,  by  ex- 



tension,  to  mean  cause,  origin,  source  of  strength  5  taf- 
wanay  the  middle  part  of  the  trunk,  also  means  the  trunk 
itself,  the  main  body  of  any  elongated  object,  the  length 
of  a  road 3  fnatala — originally  eye,  or  point  (as  in  a  spear), 
and  sometimes  replaced  by  the  word  dogma  or  dahwanay 
the  tip  of  a  tree  or  the  top  of  any  high  object — stands  for 
the  highest  part,  or,  in  more  abstract  metaphor,  the  final 
word,  the  highest  expression. 

The  comparison  as  generally  applied  to  the  sexual 
mechanism  is  not,  as  we  have  said,  altogether  devoid  of 
meaning,  and  only  becomes  nonsensical  in  ascribing  a 
special  function  to  the  kidneys.  These  are  regarded  as 
a  highly  important  and  vital  part  of  the  human  organism, 
and  mainly  because  they  are  the  source  of  the  seminal 
fluid.  Another  view  attributes  male  and  female  dis- 
charge, not  to  the  kidneys,  but  to  the  bowels.  In  either 
case,  the  natives  consider  that  something  in  the  bowels  is 
the  actual  agent  of  ejaculation:  ipipsi  motnona — "it 
squirts  out  the  discharge." 

Very  remarkable  is  their  entire  ignorance  of  the  physio- 
logical function  of  the  testes.  They  are  not  aware  that 
anything  is  produced  in  this  organ,  and  leading  questions 
as  to  whether  the  male  fluid  {momond)  has  not  its  source 
there  are  answered  emphatically  in  the  negative.  "See, 
women  have  no  testes  and  yet  they  produce  momona?^ 
This  part  of  the  male  body  is  said  to  be  only  an  orna- 
mental appendage  {katuhuhula) .  "Indeed,  how  ugly 
would  a  penis  look  without  the  testes,"  a  native  aesthete 
will  exclaim.  The  testes  serve  "to  make  it  look  proper" 



Love  or  affection  {yobwaylt)  has  its  seat  in  the  intes- 
tines, in  the  skin  of  the  belly,  and  of  the  arms,  and  only 
to  a  lesser  extent  in  those  springs  of  desire,  the  eyes. 
Hence,  we  like  to  look  at  those  of  whom  we  are  fond, 
such  as  our  children,  our  friends,  or  our  parents,  but 
when  this  love  is  strong  we  want  to  hug  them. 

Menstruation  the  Trobrianders  regard  as  a  phenome- 
non connected  with  pregnancy  in  a  vague  manner:  "the 
flow  comes,  it  trickles,  it  trickles,  it  ebbs — it  is  over." 
They  denote  it  simply  by  the  word  blood,  buyaviy  but 
with  a  characteristic  grammatical  peculiarity.  While  or- 
dinary bodily  blood  is  always  mentioned  with  the  pronoun 
of  nearest  possession,  which  is  affixed  to  all  the  parts  of  a 
human  body,  menstruous  blood  is  spoken  of  with  the 
same  possessive  pronouns  as  are  used  for  ornamentation 
and  articles  of  apparel  (second  nearest  possession).  Thus 
huyavlgUy  "blood-mine"  ("part  of  me — ^blood"),  means 
bodily  blood  coming  from  a  cut  or  haemorrhage  5  agu 
buyaviy  "my  blood"  ("belonging  to  me — ^blood"),  means 
menstruous  blood. 

There  is  no  pronounced  masculine  dislike  or  dread  of 
menstruous  blood.  A  man  will  not  cohabit  with  his  wife 
or  sweetheart  during  her  monthly  period,  but  he  will 
remain  in  the  same  hut  and  participate  in  the  same  food, 
and  only  refrains  from  sleeping  in  the  same  bed.  Women, 
during  menstruation,  wash  themselves  daily,  for  purposes 
of  cleanliness,  in  the  same  large  water  hole  from  which 
the  whole  village  draws  its  drinking  water,  and  in  which, 
also,  males  occasionally  take  a  bath.  There  are  no  special 
ablutions  ceremonially  carried  out  at  the  end  of  the  pe- 



riod,  nor  is  any  rite  performed  when  a  girl  menstruates 
for  the  first  time.  The  women  have  no  special  way  of 
dressing  during  menstruation,  except  that  at  times  they 
wear  a  longer  skirt,  and  there  is  no  particular  modesty  on 
the  subject  between  the  sexes. 


The  relation  between  menstruous  blood  and  the  for- 
mation of  the  foetus  has  been  observed  and  recognized  by 
the  natives,  but  their  ideas  about  it  are  extremely  vague. 
Such  as  they  are,  they  are  so  mixed  up  with  beliefs  about 
the  incarnation  of  spiritual  beings,  that  physiological 
process  and  spiritual  agencies  will  have  to  be  considered 
together  in  this  account.  Thus  we  shall  preserve  the 
natural  sequence  and  perspective  of  native  doctrine.  Since 
the  new  life,  in  Trobriand  tradition,  begins  with  death, 
we  shall  now  have  to  move  to  the  bedside  of  a  dying 
man,  and  follow  the  progress  of  his  spirit  till  we  trace 
him  back  to  earthly  existence  again.^ 

The  spirit  after  death  moves  to  Tuma,  the  Island 
of  the  Dead,  where  he  leads  a  pleasant  existence  analo- 
gous to  the  terrestrial  life — only  much  happier.     Into 

1  In  my  article  "Baloraa,  the  Spirits  of  the  Dead"  already  quoted,  I 
have  given  a  short  preliminary  account  of  native  beliefs  concerning  pro- 
creation. I  also  expressed  certain  opinions  about  primitive  ignorance  of 
paternity  in  general,  some  of  which  were  challenged  by  Professor  Wester- 
marck  {History  of  Human  Marriage,  5th  edition,  vol.  i,  pp.  290  sq.)  and 
by  Professor  Carveth  Read  (article,  "No  Paternity"  in  the  Journal  of  the 
Anthropological  Institute,  1917).  The  fuller  evidence  adduced  in  this 
chapter  answers  certain  questions  of  fact  raised  by  my  critics. 



the  nature  of  this  bliss  we  shall  have  to  inquire  in  some- 
what more  detail,  for  sex  plays  an  important  part  in  it.^ 
Here  we  are  concerned  with  one  of  its  features  only:  per- 
petual youth,  preserved  by  the  power  of  rejuvenation. 
Whenever  the  spirit  {haloma)  sees  that  bodily  hair  is  cov- 
ering his  skin,  that  the  skin  itself  is  getting  loose  and 
wrinkled,  and  that  his  head  is  turning  grey,  he  simply 
sloughs  his  covering  and  appears  fresh  and  young,  with 
black  locks  and  smooth  hairless  skin. 

But  when  a  spirit  becomes  tired  of  constant  rejuvena- 
tion, when  he  has  led  a  long  existence  "underneath"  as 
the  natives  call  it,  he  may  want  to  return  to  earth  again  5 
and  then  he  leaps  back  in  age  and  becomes  a  small  pre- 
born  infant.  Some  of  my  informants  pointed  out  that  in 
Tuma,  as  on  earth,  there  are  plenty  of  sorcerers.  Black 
magic  is  frequently  practised,  and  can  reach  a  spirit  and 
make  him  weak,  sick  and  tired  of  life  3  then,  and  then 
only,  will  he  go  back  to  the  beginnings  of  his  existence 
and  change  into  a  spirit-child.  To  kill  a  spirit  by  black 
magic  or  accident  is  quite  impossible  5  his  end  will  always 
mean  merely  a  new  beginning. 

These  rejuvenated  spirits,  these  little  pre-incarnated 
babies  or  spirit-children,  are  the  only  source  from  which 
humanity  draws  its  new  supplies  of  life.  A  pre-born 
infant  finds  its  way  back  to  the  Trobriands  and  into  the 
womb  of  some  woman,  but  always  of  a  woman  who  be- 
longs to  the  same  clan  and  sub-clan  as  the  spirit  child 
itself.  Exactly  how  it  travels  from  Tuma  to  Boyowa, 
how  it  enters  the  body  of  its  mother,  and  how  there  the 

1  Cf.  below,  ch.  xii,  last  section. 



physiological  processes  of  gestation  combine  with  the  spirit 
activity,  are  questions  on  which  native  belief  is  not  alto- 
gether consistent.  But  that  all  spirits  have  ultimately  to 
end  their  life  in  Tuma  and  turn  into  unborn  infants  j  that 
every  child  born  in  this  world  has  first  come  into  exist- 
ence {ibubuli)  in  Tuma  through  the  metamorphosis  of  a 
spirit  j  that  the  only  reason  and  real  cause  of  every  birth 
is  spirit  activity,  are  facts  known  to  everybody  and  firmly 
believed  by  all. 

Owing  to  its  importance,  I  collected  details  and  vari- 
ants of  this  system  of  beliefs  with  special  care.  The  re- 
juvenation process  is  associated  in  a  general  way  with  sea 
water.  In  the  myth  which  describes  how  humanity  lost 
the  privilege  of  regaining  youth  at  will,  the  scene  of  the 
last  rejuvenation  is  laid  on  the  seashore  in  one  of  the 
lagoon  inlets.^  In  the  first  account  of  rejuvenation  which 
I  obtained  in  Omarakana,  I  was  told  that  the  spirit  "goes 
to  the  beach  and  bathes  in  the  salt  water."  Tomwaya 
Lakwabulo  the  Seer  (pi.  37),  who  in  his  trances  often  goes 
to  Tuma  and  has  frequent  intercourse  with  the  spirits,  told 
me:  "The  baloma  go  to  a  spring  called  sofiwina  (literally 
Vashing  water')  j  it  lies  on  the  beach.  There  they  wash 
their  skin  with  brackish  water.  They  become  to^ulatile 
(young  men)."  Likewise  in  the  final  rejuvenation,  which 
makes  them  return  to  the  infant  state,  the  spirits  have  to 
bathe  in  salt  water,  and,  when  they  become  babies  again, 
they  go  into  the  sea  and  drift.    They  are  always  spoken 

1  This  story  is  given  in  Myth  in  Primitive  Psychology,  pp.  80-106.  The 
village  of  Bwadela,  where  the  loss  of  immortality  occurred,  is  on  the 
west  shore  of  the  southern  half  of  the  main  island. 



of  as  floating  on  drift-logs,  or  on  the  leaves,  boughs,  dead 
seaweed,  sea-scum,  and  the  other  light  substances  which 
litter  the  surface  of  the  sea.  Tomwaya  Lakwabulo  says 
that  they  float  all  the  time  around  the  shores  of  Tuma,, 
wailing  wa^  way  wa.  "At  night  I  hear  their  wailing.  I 
ask,  'What  is  it?'  'Oh,  children j  the  tide  brings  them^ 
they  come.' "  The  spirits  in  Tuma  can  see  these  pre- 
incarnated  infants,  and  so  can  Tomwaya  Lakwabulo  when 
he  descends  into  the  spirit  world.  But  to  ordinary  people 
they  are  invisible.  At  times,  however,  fishermen  from 
the  northern  villages  of  Kaybola  and  Lu'ebila,  when  they 
go  far  out  into  the  sea  after  shark,  will  hear  the  wailing 
— way  way  wa — in  the  sighing  of  the  wind  and  the  waves. 
Tomwaya  Lakwabulo  and  other  informants  maintain 
that  such  spirit  children  never  float  far  away  from  Tuma. 
They  are  transported  to  the  Trobriands  by  the  help  of 
another  spirit.  Tomwaya  Lakwabulo  gives  the  following 
account.  "A  child  floats  on  a  drift  log.  A  spirit  sees  it 
is  good-looking.  She  takes  it.  She  is  the  spirit  of  the 
mother  or  of  the  father  of  the  pregnant  woman  (nasu- 
suma) .  Then  she  puts  it  on  the  head,  in  the  hair,  of  the 
pregnant  woman,  who  suffers  headache,  vomits,  and  has 
an  ache  in  the  belly.  Then  the  child  comes  down  into  the 
belly,  and  she  is  really  pregnant.  She  says:  'Already  it 
(the  child)  has  found  mej  already  they  (the  spirits)  have 
brought  me  the  child.' "  In  this  account  we  find  two 
leading  ideas:  the  active  intervention  of  another  spirit — • 
the  one  who  somehow  conveys  the  child  back  to  the  Tro- 
briands and  gives  it  to  the  mother — ^and  the  insertion  of 



it  through  the  head,  with  which  (not  in  the  statement 
quoted,  but  usually)  is  associated  the  idea  of  an  effusion 
of  blood,  first  to  the  head  and  then  into  the  abdomen. 

As  to  how  the  transportation  is  actually  accomplished 
opinions  vary:  there  are  natives  who  imagine  that  the 
Dlder  spirit  carries  the  baby  either  in  some  sort  of  re- 
ceptacle— a  plaited  coconut  basket  or  a  wooden  dish — 
or  else  simply  in  her  arms.  Others  say  candidly  that  they 
do  not  know.  But  the  active  control  of  another  spirit  is 
essentially  important.  When  natives  say  that  the  chil- 
dren are  "given  by  a  balomay^  that  "a  baloma  is  the  real 
cause  of  childbirth,"  they  refer  always  to  this  controlling 
spirit  (as  we  might  call  it),  and  not  to  the  spirit  baby 
itself.  This  controlling  spirit  usually  appears  in  a  dream 
to  the  woman  about  to  be  pregnant  (see  ch.  viii,  sec.  i). 
As  Motago'i,  one  of  my  best  informants,  volunteered: 
^'She  dreams  her  mother  comes  to  her,  she  sees  the  face 
of  her  mother  in  a  dream.  She  wakes  up,  and  says:  'Oh, 
there  is  a  child  for  me.' " 

Frequently  a  woman  will  tell  her  husband  who  it  was 
that  brought  the  baby  to  her.  And  the  tradition  of  this 
spiritual  godfather  or  godmother  is  preserved.  Thus  the 
present  chief  of  Omarakana  knows  that  it  was  Bugwab- 
waga,  one  of  his  predecessors  in  office,  who  gave  him  to  his 
mother.  My  best  friend,  Tokulubakiki,  was  a  gift  to  his 
mother  from  her  kadala^  mother's  brother.  Tokulu- 
bakiki's  wife  received  her  eldest  daughter  from  her 
mother's  spirit.  Usually  it  is  some  maternal  relative  of 
the  prospective  mother  who  bestows  the  gift;  but  it  may 
be  her  father,  as  in  Tomwaya  Lakwabulo's  statement. 



The  physiological  theory  associated  with  this  belief 
has  already  been  touched  on.  The  spirit-child  is  laid  by 
the  bringer  on  the  woman's  head.  Blood  from  her  body 
rushes  there,  and  on  this  tide  of  blood  the  baby  gradually 
descends  until  it  settles  in  the  womb.  The  blood  helps  to 
build  the  body  of  the  child — it  nourishes  it.  That  is  the 
reason  why,  when  a  woman  becomes  pregnant,  her  men- 
struous  flow  stops.  A  woman  will  see  that  her  menstrua- 
tion has  stopped.  She  will  wait  one,  two,  three  moons, 
and  then  she  will  know  for  certain  that  she  is  pregnant. 
A  much  less  authoritative  belief  maintains  that  the  baby, 
is  inserted  fer  vaginam. 

Another  version  of  the  story  of  reincarnation  ascribes 
more  initiative  to  the  pre-incarnated  infant.  It  is  sup- 
posed to  be  able  to  float  of  its  own  will  towards  the  Tro- 
briands.  There  it  remains,  probably  in  company  with 
others,  drifting  about  the  shores  of  the  island,  awaiting 
its  chance  to  enter  the  body  of  a  woman  while  she  bathes. 
Certain  observances  kept  by  girls  in  coastal  villages  are 
evidence  that  the  belief  has  vitality.  The  spirit  children 
are  imagined,  as  around  Tuma,  to  be  attached  to  drift 
logs,  scum,  leaves,  and  branches,  or  else  to  the  small 
stones  on  the  bottom  of  the  sea.  Whenever,  through 
wind  and  tide,  much  debris  accumulates  near  the  shore, 
the  girls  will  not  enter  the  water  for  fear  they  might  con- 
ceive. Again,  in  the  villages  on  the  northern  coast,  there 
is  a  custom  of  filling  a  wooden  baler  with  water  from  the 
sea  which  is  then  left  overnight  in  the  hut  of  a  woman 
who  wishes  to  conceive,  on  the  chance  that  a  spirit-child 
might  have  been  caught  in  the  baler  and  transfer  itself 



during  the  night  into  the  woman.  But  even  in  this  case, 
the  woman  is  said  to  be  visited  in  her  dream  by  the  spirit 
of  some  deceased  maternal  relative,  so  that  a  controlling 
spirit  is  still  essential  to  conception.  It  is  important  to 
note  that  the  water  must  always  be  fetched  by  her  brother 
or  by  her  mother's  brother  5  that  is,  by  a  maternal  kins- 
man. To  give  an  example:  a  man  from  the  village  of 
Kapwani,  on  the  northern  shore,  was  asked  by  his  sister's 
daughter  to  procure  her  a  child.  He  went  several  times 
to  the  beach.  One  evening  he  heard  a  sound  like  the 
wailing  of  children.  He  drew  water  from  the  sea  into 
the  baler  and  left  it  in  his  kadaWs  (niece's)  hut  over 
night.  She  conceived  a  child,  a  girl.  This  child,  unfor- 
tunately, turned  out  to  be  an  albino,  but  this  mischance 
was  not  due  to  the  method  of  conception. 

The  chief  points  in  which  this  belief  differs  from  the 
one  first  described  are  that  the  pre-incarnated  spirit  child 
is  endowed  with  more  spontaneity — it  can  float  across  the 
sea  and  enter  the  bathing  woman  without  help — and  that 
its  entry  is  effected  fer  vaglnaniy  or  else  through  the  skin 
of  the  abdomen  if  conception  takes  place  in  the  hut.  I 
found  this  belief  prevalent  in  the  northern  part  of  the 
island,  and  especially  in  its  coastal  villages. 

The  nature  of  the  spirit-child,  or  pre-incarnated  baby, 
is  not  very  clearly  defined  in  traditional  folk-lore.  In 
answer  to  a  direct  question,  the  majority  of  informants 
said  that  they  did  not  know  what  it  was  or  what  it  looked 
like.  One  or  two,  however,  who,  through  their  superior 
intelligence,  had  worked  out  their  beliefs  in  greater  detail 
and  with  more  consistency,  said  that  it  was  like  the  foetus 



in  the  womb  which,  they  added,  "looks  like  a  mouse." 
Tomwaya  Lakwabulo  volunteered  the  statement  that  pre- 
incarnated  infants  look  like  very  minute  and  fully  devel- 
oped children,  and  that  they  are  sometimes  very  beautiful. 
He  had  to  say  something,  of  course,  since,  on  his  own 
showing,  he  had  seen  them  frequently  in  Tuma.  Even 
the  nomenclature  is  not  quite  definite.  Usually  it  is  called 
*maywayay  small  child  or  foetus,  but  sometimes  the  word 
fwafwawa  is  used,  which,  though  almost  synonymous 
with  waywaya^  refers  perhaps  rather  to  a  child  already 
born  than  to  the  foetus  or  a  pre-incarnated  baby.  Quite 
as  often,  however,  it  is  spoken  of  simply  as  "child,"  gwadi 
(plural,  gugwadi). 

I  was  told,  though  I  was  not  able  to  verify  this  com- 
pletely, that  there  is  a  magic  performed  over  a  species  of 
betel  leaf  (kwega)  called  kaykatuv'tlena  kwega^  to  induce 
pregnancy.  A  woman  in  Yourawotu,  a  small  village  near 
Omarakana,  knows  this  magic,  but  unfortunately  I  was 
unable  to  get  into  touch  with  her/ 

Thus,  as  is  always  the  case,  this  belief  dissolves  into 
various  and  only  pai-tially  consistent  elements  when  ex- 
amined under  the  magnifying  glass  of  detailed  research 
made  over  an  extended  area.  The  divergencies  are  not 
wholly  due  to  geographical  differences  5  nor  can  they  be 
assigned  to  special  social  layers,  for  some  of  the  incon- 
sistencies occurred  in  the  account  of  one  and  the  same 

^  A'  statement  which  I  guardedly  gave  on  the  authority  of  a  trader  in 
my  article  for  the  Journal  of  the  Anthropological  Institute,  1916,  p.  404, 
to  the  effect  that  there  are  "some  stones  in  Sinaketa,  to  which  a  woman 
who  wants  to  become  enceinte  may  have  recourse,"  I  found  quite  baseless 
after  careful  inquiries  on  the  spot. 



man.  Tomwaya  Lakwabulo,  for  instance,  insisted  that 
the  children  cannot  travel  alone,  but  must  be  carried  by  a 
controlling  spirit  and  placed  in  the  woman  j  yet  he  in- 
formed me  that  their  wailing  could  be  heard  on  the  north 
shore  near  Kaybola.  Or,  again,  the  man  of  Kiriwina,  who 
told  me  how  the  spirit  child  might  enter  from  a  baler, 
also  spoke  of  an  older  spirit  "giving"  that  child.  Such 
inconsistencies  are  probably  the  result  of  several  mytho- 
logical cycles  of  ideas,  meeting,  so  to  speak,  and  inter- 
secting on  the  locus  of  this  belief.  One  of  these  cycles 
contains  the  idea  of  rejuvenation 5  another  that  of  fresh 
life  floating  on  the  sea  towards  the  island  j  another  that  a 
new  member  of  the  family  comes  as  a  gift  from  some 
ancestral  spirit. 

It  is  important,  however,  that,  in  all  principal  points, 
the  various  versions  and  descriptions  agree,  overlap  and 
fortify  one  another  5  and  we  are  left  with  a  composite 
picture  which,  though  blurred  in  some  of  its  details,  pre- 
sents a  strong  outline  when  viewed  from  a  distance.  Thus 
all  spirits  rejuvenate j  all  children  are  incarnated  spirits; 
the  identity  of  sub-clan  is  preserved  throughout  the  cycle  j 
the  real  cause  of  childbirth  is  the  spirit  initiative  from 

It  must  be  remembered,  however,  that  the  belief  in 
reincarnation  is  not  one  which  exercises  a  great  influence 
over  custom  and  social  organization  in  the  Trobriands; 
rather  it  is  one  of  those  doctrines  which  lead  a  quiet  and 
passive  existence  in  folk-lore,  and  affect  social  behaviour 
only  to  a  small  extent.  Thus,  for  instance,  although  the 
Trobrianders  firmly  believe  that  each  spirit  becomes  a  pre- 



born  infant,  and  that  this  again  becomes  reincarnated  into 
a  human  being,  yet  no  consciousness  of  personal  identity- 
is  preserved  through  the  process.  That  is,  no  one  knows 
whose  incarnation  the  infant  is- — who  he  was  in  his 
previous  existence.  There  is  no  remembrance  of  past  lif-e 
in  Tuma  or  on  earth.  Any  questioning  of  the  natives 
makes  it  obvious  that  the  whole  problem  appears  to  them 
irrelevant  and  indeed  uninteresting.  The  only  recognized 
rule  which  guides  these  metamorphoses  is  that  the  con- 
tinuity of  clan  and  sub-clan  is  preserved  throughout. 
There  are  no  moral  ideas  of  recompense  or  punishment 
embodied  in  their  reincarnation  theory,  no  customs  or 
ceremonies  associated  with  it  or  bearing  witness  to  it. 


The  correlation  of  the  mystical  with  the  physiological 
aspects  in  pregnancy  belief — of  the  origin  of  the  child 
in  Tuma  and  its  journey  to  the  Trobriands  with  the  sub- 
sequent processes  in  the  maternal  body,  the  welling  up 
of  the  blood  from  the  abdomen  to  the  head  and  down 
again  from  the  head  to  the  womb — provides  a  co-ordi- 
nated and  self-contained,  though  not  always  consistent, 
theory  of  the  origin  of  human  life.  It  also  gives  a  good 
theoretical  foundation  for  matriliny^  for  the  whole 
process  of  introducing  new  life  into  a  community  lies 
between  the  spirit  world  and  the  female  organism.  There 
is  no  room  for  any  sort  of  physical  paternity. 

But  there  is  another  condition  considered  by  the  natives 



indispensable  for  conception  and  child-birth,  which  com- 
plicates their  theory  and  blurs  the  clear  outline  of  their 
belief.  This  condition  is  related  to  sexual  intercourse, 
and  brings  us  face  to  face  with  the  difficult  and  delicate 
question:  are  the  natives  really  entirely  ignorant  of  physi- 
ological fatherhood?  Is  it  not  rather  a  fact  of  which, 
they  are  more  or  less  aware,  though  it  may  be  overlaid 
and  distorted  by  mythological  and  animistic  beliefs?  Is 
it  not  an  instance  of  empirical  knowledge  possessed  by  a 
backward  community,  but  never  formulated  because  it  is 
too  obvious  to  need  explicit  statement,  whereas  the  tradi- 
tional legend  which  is  the  basis  of  their  social  structure  is 
carefully  expressed  as  a  part  of  the  body  of  authoritative, 
dogma?  The  facts  which  I  am  about  to  adduce  contain 
an  unambiguous  and  decisive  answer  to  these  questions.  I 
shall  not  anticipate  the  conclusion,  which,  indeed,  as  we 
shall  see,  will  be  drawn  by  the  natives  themselves. 

A  virgin  cannot  conceive. 

Tradition,  diffuse  folk-lore,  certain  aspects  of  custom 
and  customary  behaviour,  teach  the  natives  this  simple 
physiological  truth.  They  have  no  doubt  about  it,  and  it 
will  be  seen  from  what  follows  that  they  can  formulate 
it  tersely  and  clearly. 

This  statement  was  volunteered  by  Niyova,  a  sound 
informant  in  Oburaku:  "A  virgin  does  not  conceive,  be- 
cause there  is  no  way  for  the  children  to  go,  for  that 
woman  to  conceive.  When  the  orifice  is  wide  open,  the 
spirits  are  aware,  they  give  the  child."  This  is  quite 
clear  5  but  during  the  same  sitting,  the  same  informant 
had  previously  given  me  a  detailed  description  of  how  the 



spirit  lays  the  child  on  the  woman's  head.  The  words  of 
Niyova,  here  quoted  verbatim,  imply  an  insertion  fer 
vaglnam.  Ibena,  a  clever  old  man  of  Kasana'i,  gave  me 
a  similar  explanation — in  fact,  it  was  he  who  first  made 
it  clear  to  me  that  virginity  mechanically  impedes  spirit 
impregnation.  His  method  of  explanation  was  graphic. 
Holding  out  his  closed  fist,  he  asked:  "Can  anything 
enter?"  Then,  opening  it,  he  continued:  "Now,  of  course, 
it  is  easy.  Thus  it  is  that  a  hulabola  (large  orifice)  con- 
ceives easily,  and  a  naka-patu  (small  or  closed  entrance,  a 
virgin)  cannot  do  it." 

I  have  quoted  these  two  statements  in  extensOy  as  they 
are  telling  and  characteristic  j  but  they  are  not  isolated. 
I  received  a  great  number  of  similar  declarations,  all  ex- 
pressing the  view  that  the  way  must  be  open  for  the  child, 
but  this  need  not  necessarily  be  brought  about  by  sexual 
intercourse.  The  point  is  quite  clear.  The  vagina  must 
be  opened  to  remove  the  physiological  obstacle,  called 
simply  kdafatu  (her  tightness).  Once  this  has  been 
done,  in  the  normal  way  by  sexual  intercourse,  there  is  no 
need  for  male  and  female  to  come  together  in  order  to 
produce  a  child. 

Considering  that  there  are  no  virgins  in  the  villages — 
for  every  female  child  begins  her  sexual  life  very  early — 
we  may  wonder  how  the  natives  arrived  at  this  conditio 
sine  qua  non.  Again,  since  they  have  got  so  far,  it  may 
appear  difficult  to  see  why  they  have  not  advanced  just 
a  little  further  and  grasped  the  fertilizing  virtue  of 
seminal  fluid.  Nevertheless,  there  are  many  facts  to 
prove  that  they  have  not  made  this  advance:  as  certainly 



as  they  know  the  necessity  of  a  mechanical  opening  of  the 
vagina,  so  they  do  not  know  the  generative  power  of  the 
male  discharge.  It  was  in  discussing  the  mythological 
tales  of  mankind's  beginnings  on  earth  (see  below,  ch. 
xiii,  sec.  5)  and  fantastic  legends  of  distant  lands,  to  the 
account  of  which  I  shall  now  proceed,  that  I  was  made 
aware  of  this  subtle  yet  all-important  distinction  between 
mechanical  dilation  and  physiological  fertilization  5  and 
was  thus  enabled  to  place  native  belief  regarding  pro- 
creation in  its  proper  perspective. 

According  to  native  tradition,  mankind  originated  from 
underground,  whence  a  couple,  a  brother  and  a  sister, 
emerged  at  different  specified  places.  According  to  certain 
legends,  only  women  appeared  at  first.  Some  of  my  com- 
mentators insisted  upon  this  version:  "You  see,  we  are  so 
many  on  the  earth  because  many  women  came  first.  Had 
there  been  many  men,  we  would  be  few."  Now,  whether 
accompanied  by  her  brother  or  not,  the  primeval  woman  is 
always  imagined  to  bear  children  without  the  interven- 
tion of  a  husband  or  of  any  other  male  partner  5  but  not 
without  the  vagina  being  opened  by  some  means.  In 
some  of  the  traditions  this  is  mentioned  explicitly.  Thus 
on  the  island  of  Vakuta  there  is  a  myth  which  describes 
how  an  ancestress  of  one  of  the  sub-clans  exposed  her 
body  to  falling  rain,  and  thus  mechanically  lost  her  vir- 
ginity. In  the  most  important  Trobriand  myth,  a  woman, 
called  Mitigis  or  Bolutukwa,  mother  of  the  legendary 
hero  Tudava,  lives  quite  alone  in  a  grotto  on  the  seashore. 
One  day  she  falls  asleep  in  her  rocky  dwelling,  reclining 
under  a  dripping  stalactite.     The  drops  of  water  pierce 



her  vagina,  and  thus  deprive  her  of  virginity.  Hence 
her  second  name,  Bolutukwa:  bo,  female,  prefix  Utukway 
dripping  water.  In  other  myths  of  origin  the  means  of 
piercing  the  hymen  are  not  mentioned,  but  it  is  often 
explicitly  stated  that  the  ancestress  was  without  a  man, 
and  could,  therefore,  have  no  sexual  intercourse.  When 
asked  in  so  many  words  how  it  was  that  they  bore  children 
without  a  man,  the  natives  would  mention,  more  or  less 
coarsely  or  jestingly,  some  means  of  perforation  which 
they  could  easily  have  used,  and  it  was  clear  that  no  more 
■was  necessary. 

Moving  into  another  mythological  dimension — into 
present-day  legends  of  countries  far  to  the  north — ^we 
find  the  marvellous  land  of  Kaytalugi,  peopled  exclu- 
sively by  sexually  rabid  women.^  They  are  so  brutally 
profligate  that  their  excesses  kill  every  man  thrown  by 
chance  upon  their  shores,  and  even  their  own  male  chil- 
dren never  attain  maturity  before  they  are  sexually  done 
to  death.  Yet  these  women  are  very  prolific,  producing 
many  children,  male  and  female.  If  a  native  is  asked 
how  this  can  be,  how  these  females  become  pregnant 
if  there  are  no  men,  he  simply  cannot  understand  such 
an  absurd  question.  These  women,  he  will  say,  destroy 
their  virginity  in  all  sorts  of  ways  if  they  cannot  get  hold 
of  a  man  to  torture  to  death.  And  they  have  got  their 
own  haloma,  of  course,  to  give  them  children. 

I  have  adduced  these  mythical  instances  first,  for  they 
clearly  demonstrate  the  native  point  of  view  5  the  need 
for  perforation,  and  the  absence  of  any  idea  concerning 

1  Cf.  ch.  xil,  sec.  4. 



the  fertilizing  value  of  the  semen.  But  there  are  some 
convincing  present-day  instances  which  show  that  the 
natives  believe  that  a  girl  can  be  with  child  without 
previous  sexual  intercourse.  Thus,  there  are  some  women 
so  ugly  and  repulsive  that  no  one  believes  that  they  can 
ever  have  had  intercourse  (save,  of  course,  for  those  few 
who  know  better,  but  who  are  very  careful  to  keep  silent 
from  shame j  see  ch.  x,  sec.  2).  There  is  Tilapo'i,  now 
an  old  woman,  who  was  famous  for  her  hideousness  in 
youth.  She  has  become  blind,  was  always  almost  an 
idiot,  and  had  a  repulsive  face  and  deformed  body.  Her 
unattractiveness  was  so  notorious  that  she  became  the 
subject  of  a  saying:  Kwoy  Tilafo^i  ("have  connection 
with  Tilapo'i"),  a  form  of  abuse  used  in  mild  chaff  (ch. 
xiii,  sec.  4).  Altogether  she  is  an  infinite  source  and  pivot 
of  all  kinds  of  matrimonial  and  obscene  jokes,  all  based 
on  the  presumed  impossibility  of  being  Tilapo'i's  lover 
or  prospective  husband.  I  was  assured,  over  and  over 
again,  that  no  one  ever  could  have  had  connection  with 
her.  Yet  this  woman  has  had  a  child,  as  the  natives 
would  triumphantly  point  out,  when  I  tried  to  persuade 
them  that  only  by  intercourse  can  children  be  produced. 
Again,  there  is  the  case  of  Kurayana,  a  woman  of 
Sinaketa,  whom  I  never  saw,  but  who,  I  was  told,  was 
"so  ugly  that  any  man  would  be  ashamed"  to  have  inter- 
course with  her.  This  saying  implies  that  social  shame 
would  be  an  even  stronger  deterrent  than  sexual  repul- 
sion, an  assumption  which  shows  that  my  informant  was 
not  a  bad  practical  psychologist.  Kurayana,  as  thoroughly 
chaste  as  anyone  could  be — ^by  necessity,  if  not  by  virtue — 



had  no  less  than  six  children,  five  of  whom  died  and  one 
of  whom  still  survives/ 

Albinos,  male  and  female,  are  considered  unfit  for 
sexual  intercourse.  There  is  not  the  slightest  doubt  that 
all  the  natives  feel  real  horror  of  and  disgust  for  these 
unfortunate  beings,  a  horror  perfectly  comprehensible 
after  one  has  seen  specimens  of  such  unpigmented  natives 
(see  pi.  38).  Yet  there  are  on  record  several  instances 
of  albino  women  who  have  brought  forth  a  numerous 
progeny.  "Why  did  they  become  pregnant?  Is  it  because 
they  copulate  at  night  time?  or  because  a  haloma  has 
given  them  children?"  Such  was  the  clinching  argument 
of  one  of  my  informants,  for  the  first  alternative  appeared 
obviously  absurd.  Indeed,  the  whole  of  this  line  of  argu- 
ment was  volunteered  to  me  in  one  of  my  early  discus- 
sions of  the  subject,  although  I  obtained  confirmatory 
data  by  subsequent  research.  For  as  a  means  of  testing 
the  firmness  of  their  belief,  I  sometimes  made  myself 
definitely  and  aggressively  an  advocate  of  the  truer  physi- 
ological doctrine  of  procreation.  In  such  arguments  the 
natives  would  quote,  not  only  positive  instances,  such  as 
those  just  mentioned,  of  women  who  have  children  with- 
out having  enjoyed  any  intercourse 3  but  would  also  refer 
to  the  equally  convincing  negative  aspect,  that  is,  to  the 
many  cases  in  which  an  unmarried  woman  has  plenty  of 
intercourse  and  no  children.  This  argument  would  be 
repeated  over  and  over  again,  with  specially  telling  con- 

1  In  the  already  quoted  article  in  the  Journal  of  the  Anthropological 
Institute,  1916,  I  did  an  injustice  to  Kurayana  in  stating  on  p.  412  that 
she  was  the  mother  of  five  children  only.  Six  is  the  correct  number,  all 
produced  without  the  assistance  of  a  man. 



Crete  examples  of  childless  persons  renowned  for  prof- 
ligacy, or  of  women  who  lived  with  one  white  trader 
after  another  without  having  any  baby. 


Although  I  was  never  afraid  of  using  a  leading  ques- 
tion, or  of  eliciting  the  natives'  point  of  view  by  con- 
tradicting it,  I  was  somewhat  astonished  at  the  fierce 
opposition  evoked  by  my  advocacy  of  physiological  pater- 
nity. Only  late  in  my  Trobriand  career  did  I  find  out 
that  I  was  not  the  first  to  attack  this  part  of  native  belief, 
having  been  preceded  by  the  missionary  teachers.  I  speak 
mainly  of  the  coloured  onesj  for  I  do  not  know  what 
attitude  was  taken  by  the  one  or  two  white  men  who  were 
in  charge  of  the  mission  before  my  time,  and  those  who 
came  to  the  islands  while  I  was  there  only  held  office 
for  a  short  period  and  did  not  go  into  such  details.  But 
all  my  native  informants  corroborated  the  fact,  once  I 
had  discovered  it,  that  the  doctrine  and  ideal  of  Paternity, 
and  all  that  tends  to  strengthen  it,  is  advocated  by  the 
coloured  Christian  teachers. 

We  must  realize  that  the  cardinal  dogma  of  God  the 
Father  and  God  the  Son,  the  sacrifice  of  the  only  Son  and 
the  filial  love  of  man  to  his  Maker  would  completely  miss 
fire  in  a  matrilineal  society,  where  the  relation  between 
father  and  son  is  decreed  by  tribal  law  to  be  that  of  two 
strangers,  where  all  personal  unity  between  them  is 
denied,  and  where  all  family  obligations  are  associated 



with  mother-line.  We  cannot  then  wonder  that  Paternity 
must  be  among  the  principal  truths  to  be  inculcated  by 
proselytizing  Christians.  Otherwise  the  dogma  of  the 
Trinity  would  have  to  be  translated  into  matrilineal 
terms,  and  we  should  have  to  speak  of  a  God-kadala 
(mother's  brother),  a  God-sisterVson,  and  a  divine 
halofna  (spirit). 

But  apart  from  any  doctrinal  difSculty,  the  missionaries 
are  earnestly  engaged  in  propagating  sexual  morality 
as  we  conceive  it,  in  which  endeavour  the  idea  of  the 
sexual  act  as  having  serious  consequences  to  family  life  is 
indispensable.  The  whole  Christian  morality,  moreover, 
is  strongly  associated  with  the  institution  of  a  patrilineal 
and  patriarchal  family,  with  the  father  as  progenitor 
and  master  of  the  household.  In  short,  a  religion  whose 
dogmatic  essence  is  based  on  the  sacredness  of  the  father 
to  son  relationship,  and  whose  morals  stand  or  fall  by  a 
strong  patriarchal  family,  must  obviously  proceed  by  con- 
firming the  paternal  relation,  by  showing  that  it  has  a 
natural  foundation.  Only  during  my  third  expedition  to 
New  Guinea  did  I  discover  that  the  natives  had  been 
somewhat  exasperated  by  having  an  "absurdity"  preached 
at  them,  and  by  finding  me,  so  "unmissionary"  as  a  rule, 
engaged  in  the  same  futile  argument. 

When  I  found  this  out,  I  used  to  call  the  correct 
physiological  view  "the  talk  of  the  missionaries,"  and 
goad  the  natives  into  comment  or  contradiction.  In  this 
manner  I  obtained  some  of  my  strongest  and  clearest 
statements,  from  which  I  shall  select  a  few. 

Motago'i,  one  of  my  most  intelligent  informants,  in 



answer  to  a  somewhat  arrogantly  framed  affirmation  that 
the  missionaries  were  right,  exclaimed: — 

^^Gala   walal         Isasofast:        yamhwata       yamhwata 
Not    at  all!        They  lie:        always  always 

nakubukwahuya  momona  ikasewo 

unmarried  girls  seminal  fluid  it  is  brimful 

Utusi  gala,^^ 

children  theirs  not. 

Which  may  be  freely  rendered:  "Not  at  all,  the  mis- 
sionaries are  mistaken  j  unmarried  girls  continually  have 
intercourse,  in  fact  they  overflow  with  seminal  fluid,  and 
yet  have  no  children." 

Here,  in  terse  and  picturesque  language,  Motago'i  ex- 
presses the  view  that,  after  all,  if  sexual  intercourse  were 
causally  connected  with  child  production,  it  is  the  un- 
married girls  who  should  have  children,  since  they  lead 
a  much  more  intensive  sexual  life  than  the  married  ones — 
a  puzzling  difficulty  which  really  exists,  as  we  shall  see 
later  on,  but  which  our  informant  exaggerates  slightly, 
since  unmarried  girls  do  conceive,  though  not  nearly  as 
frequently  as  anyone  holding  the  "missionary  views" 
would  be  led  to  expect.  Asked  in  the  course  of  the  same 
discussion:  "What,  then,  is  the  cause  of  pregnancy?"  he 
answered:  "Blood  on  the  head  makes  child.  The  seminal 
fluid  does  not  make  the  child.  Spirits  bring  at  night  time 
the  infant,  put  on  women's  heads — it  makes  blood.  Then, 
after  two  or  three  months,  when  the  blood  [that  is, 
menstruous  blood]  does  not  come  out,  they  know:  ^Oh, 
I  am  pregnant!' " 



An  informant  in  Teyava,  in  a  similar  discussion,  made 
several  statements  of  which  I  adduce  the  two  most  spon- 
taneous and  conclusive  ones.  "Copulation  alone  cannot 
produce  a  child.  Night  after  night,  for  years,  girls  copu- 
late. No  child  comes."  In  this  we  see  again  the  same 
argument  from  empirical  evidence j  the  majority  of  girls, 
in  spite  of  their  assiduous  cultivation  of  intercourse,  do 
not  bring  forth.  In  another  statement  the  same  infor- 
mant says:  "They  talk  that  seminal  fluid  makes  child. 
Lie!     The  spirits  indeed  bring  [children]  at  night  time." 

My  favourite  informant  in  Omarakana,  Tokulubakiki, 
on  whose  honesty,  goodwill,  and  dispassionate  reflection 
I  could  always  rely,  when  I  wanted  a  final  test  of  my 
information,  gave  a  clear,  though  somewhat  Rabelaisian, 
statement  of  the  native  point  of  view: — 

^^Takaytay  itokay  vivila       italagila 

We  copulate  she  gets  up     woman     it  runs  out 

fnomona —  iwokwo?^ 

seminal  fluid —  it  is  finished. 

In  other  words,  after  the  traces  of  sexual  intercourse 
have  been  removed,  there  are  no  further  consequences. 

These  sayings  are  trenchant  enough,  as  were  those  pre- 
viously quoted  5  but,  after  all,  an  opinion  is  a  mere  aca- 
demic expression  of  belief,  the  depth  and  tenacity  of 
which  can  best  be  gauged  by  the  test  of  behaviour.  To 
a  South  Sea  native,  as  to  a  European  peasant,  his  domestic 
animals — that  is,  his  pigs — are  the  most  valued  and  cher- 
ished members  of  the  household.  And  if  his  earnest  and 
genuine  conviction  can  be  seen  anywhere,  it  will  be  in  his 



care  for  the  welfare  and  quality  of  his  animals.  The 
South  Sea  natives  are  extremely  keen  to  have  good,  strong, 
and  healthy  pigs,  and  pigs  of  a  good  breed. 

The  main  distinction  which  they  make  in  the  matter 
of  quality  is  that  between  the  wild  or  bush-pigs,  and  the 
tame  village  pigs.  The  village  pig  is  considered  a  great 
delicacy,  while  the  flesh  of  the  bush-pig  is  one  of  the 
strongest  taboos  to  people^  of  rank  in  Kiriwina,  the  trans- 
gression of  which  they  hold  in  genuine  horror  and  disgust. 
Yet  they  allow  the  female  domestic  pigs  to  wander  on 
the  outskirts  of  the  village  and  in  the  bush,  where  they 
can  pair  freely  with  male  bush-pigs.  On  the  other  hand, 
they  castrate  all  the  male  pigs  in  the  village  in  order  to 
improve  their  condition.  Thus,  naturally,  all  the  progeny 
are  in  reality  descended  from  wild  bush  sires.  Yet  the 
natives  have  not  the  slightest  inkling  of  this  fact.  When 
I  said  to  one  of  the  chiefs,  "You  eat  the  child  of  a 
bush-pig,"  he  simply  took  it  as  a  bad  jokej  for  making 
fun  of  bush-pig  eating  is  not  considered  altogether  good 
taste  by  a  Trobriander  of  birth  and  standing.  But  he 
did  not  understand  at  all  what  I  really  meant. 

On  one  occasion  when  I  asked  directly  how  pigs  breed, 
the  answer  was :  "The  female  pig  breeds  by  itself,"  which 
simply  meant  that,  probably,  there  is  no  haloma  involved 
in  the  multiplication  of  domestic  animals.  When  I  drew 
parallels  and  suggested  that  small  pigs  are  brought  by 
their  own  balomas,  they  were  not  convinced  j  and  it  was 
evident  that  neither  their  own  interest,  nor  the  data  sup- 
plied by  tradition,  went  far  enough  to  inspire  any  con- 
cern as  to  the  procreation  of  pigs. 



Very  important  was  a  statement  volunteered  to  me  by 
Motago'i:  "From  all  male  pigs  we  cut  off  the  testes. 
They  copulate  not.  Yet  the  females  bring  forth."  Thus 
he  ignored  the  possible  misconduct  of  the  bush-pigs,  and 
adduced  the  castration  of  domestic  hogs  as  final  proof 
that  intercourse  has  nothing  to  do  with  breeding.  On 
another  occasion,  I  instanced  the  only  two  goats  in  the 
Archipelago,  one  male  and  one  female,  which  a  trader 
had  recently  imported.  When  I  asked  whether  the 
female  would  bear  any  young  if  the  male  were  killed, 
there  was  no  uncertainty  about  the  answer:  "Year  after 
year  she  will  breed."  Thus  they  have  the  firm  conviction 
that  if  a  female  animal  were  entirely  cut  off  from  any 
male  of  the  species,  this  would  by  no  means  interfere  with 
her  fecundity. 

Another  crucial  test  is  provided  by  the  recent  importa- 
tion of  European  pigs.  In  honour  of  the  first  man  who 
brought  them,  the  late  Mick  George,  a  Greek  trader 
and  a  truly  Homeric  character,  they  are  called  by  the 
natives  bulukwa  Miki  (Mick's  pigs),  and  they  will  give 
five  to  ten  of  the  native  pigs  in  exchange  for  one  of  them. 
Yet  when  they  have  acquired  it,  they  will  not  take  the 
slightest  precautions  to  make  it  breed  with  a  male  of  the 
same  superior  race,  though  they  could  easily  do  so.  In 
one  instance  when,  having  several  small  pigs  of  European 
race  they  castrated  all  the  males,  they  were  reproved  by 
a  white  trader,  and  told  that  by  so  doing  they  lowered  the 
whole  breed.  But  they  simply  could  not  be  made  to 
understand,  and  all  over  the  district  they  continue  to  allow 
their  valued  European  pigs  to  mis-breed. 



In  the  article  already  quoted  {Journal  of  the  An- 
thropological Institute y  191 6)  I  gave  verbatim  a  remark 
of  one  of  my  informants  about  pigs,  obtained  early  in  the 
course  of  my  field-work.  "They  copulate,  copulate,  pres- 
ently the  female  will  give  birth."  My  comment  was: 
^'Thus  here  copulation  appears  to  be  the  u^ula  (cause) 
,  of  pregnancy."  This  opinion,  even  in  its  qualified  form, 
is  incorrect.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  during  my  first  visit 
to  the  Trobriands,  after  which  this  article  was  written, 
I  never  entered  deeply  into  the  matter  of  animal  procrea- 
tion. The  concise  native  utterance  quoted  above,  cannot, 
in  the  light  of  subsequent  fuller  information,  be  inter- 
preted as  implying  any  knowledge  of  how  pigs  really 
breed.  As  it  stands,  it  simply  means  that  vaginal  dilation 
is  as  necessary  in  animals  as  in  human  beings.  It  also 
implies  that,  according  to  native  tradition,  animals  are 
not  subject  in  this,  as  in  many  other  respects,  to  the  same 
causal  relations  as  man.  In  man,  spirits  are  the  cause  of 
pregnancy:  in  animals — it  just  happens.  Again,  while  the 
Trobrianders  ascribe  all  human  ailments  to  sorcery,  with 
animals  disease  is  just  disease.  Men  die  because  of  very 
strong  evil  magic  3  animals — ^just  die.  But  it  would  be 
quite  incorrect  to  interpret  this  as  evidence  that  the  natives 
know,  in  the  case  of  animals^  the  natural  causes  of 
impregnation,  disease,  and  death  3  while  in  man  they 
obliterate  this  knowledge  by  an  animistic  superstructure. 
The  true  summary  of  the  native  outlook  is  that  they  are 
so  deeply  interested  in  human  affairs  that  they  construct 
a  special  tradition  about  all  that  is  vital  for  manj  while 



in  what  concerns  animals,  things  are  taken  as  they  come, 
without  any  attempt  at  explanation,  and  also  without  any 
insight  into  the  real  course  of  nature. 

Their  attitude  to  their  own  children  also  bears  witness 
to  their  ignorance  of  any  causal  relation  between  congress 
and  the  ensuing  pregnancy.  A  man  whose  wife  has  con- 
ceived during  his  absence  will  cheerfully  accept  the  fact 
and  the  child,  and  he  will  see  no  reason  at  all  for  sus- 
pecting her  of  adultery.  One  of  my  informants  told  me 
that  after  over  a  year's  absence  he  returned  to  find  a 
newly  born  child  at  home.  He  volunteered  this  statement 
as  an  illustration  and  final  proof  of  the  truth  that  sexual 
intercourse  has  nothing  to  do  with  conception.  And  it 
must  be  remembered  that  no  native  would  ever  discuss 
any  subject  in  which  the  slightest  suspicion  of  his  wife's 
fidelity  could  be  involved.  In  general,  no  allusion  is 
ever  made  to  her  sexual  life,  past  or  present.  Her  preg- 
nancy and  childbirth  are,  on  the  other  hand,  freely  dis- 

There  is  another  instance  of  a  native  of  the  small 
island  of  Kitava,  who,  after  two  years'  absence,  was  quite 
pleased  to  find  a  few  months'  old  baby  at  home,  and  could 
not  in  the  slightest  degree  understand  the  indiscreet  taunts 
and  allusions  of  some  white  men  with  reference  to  his 
wife's  virtue.  My  friend  Layseta,  a  great  sailor  and  ma- 
gician of  Sinaketa,  spent  a  long  time  in  his  later  youth 
in  the  Amphlett  Islands.  On  his  return  he  found  two 
children,  borne  by  his  wife  during  his  absence.  He  is  very 
fond  of  them  and  of  his  wife  5  and  when  I  discussed  the 



matter  with  others,  suggesting  that  one  at  least  of  these 
children  could  not  be  his,  my  interlocutors  did  not  under- 
stand what  I  meant. 

Thus  we  see,  from  these  instances,  that  children  born 
in  wedlock  during  a  prolonged  absence  of  the  husband, 
will  yet  be  recognized  by  him  as  his  own  children,  that  is 
as  standing  to  him  in  the  social  relation  of  child  to  father. 
An  instructive  parallel  to  this  is  supplied  by  cases  of  chil- 
dren born  out  of  wedlock,  but  during  a  liaison  as  exclu- 
sive as  a  marriage.  In  such  a  case,  the  physiological  father 
would  be  obvious  to  usj  yet  a  Trobriander  would  not 
recognize  the  children  as  his,  and  further,  since  for  a  girl 
it  is  dishonourable  to  bear  children  before  she  is  married, 
he  might  refuse  to  marry  her.  Of  this  I  had  a  good 
example:  Gomaya,  one  of  my  early  informants,  whom 
we  know  already  (ch.  iv,  sec.  6),  had  a  liaison  with  a  girl 
called  Ilamweria  (pi.  39).  They  lived  together  and  were 
going  to  be  married,  but  she  became  pregnant  and  gave 
birth  to  a  girl,  whereupon  Gomaya  abandoned  her.  He 
Was  quite  convinced  that  she  had  never  had  any  relations 
with  another  boy,  so,  if  any  question  of  physiological 
fatherhood  had  come  into  his  mind,  he  would  have  ac- 
cepted the  child  as  his  own,  and  married  the  mother. 
But,  in  accordance  with  the  native  point  of  view,  he  simply 
did  not  inquire  into  the  question  of  fatherhood 3  it  was 
enough  that  there  was  prenuptial  motherhood. 

Thus  of  children  borne  by  a  married  woman,  her  hus- 
band is  the  father  ex  officio^  but  for  an  unmarried  mother, 
there  is  "no  father  to  the  child."  The  father  is  defined 
socially,  and  in  order  that  there  may  be  fatherhood  there 



must  be  marriage.  And  traditional  sentiment  regards 
illegitimate  children,  as  we  have  said,  as  improper  on  the 
part  of  the  mother.  Of  course  there  is  no  implication  of 
sexual  guilt  in  this  censure,  but,  to  the  native,  to  do  wrong 
is  simply  to  act  contrary  to  custom.  And  it  is  not  the 
custom  for  an  unmarried  girl  to  have  babies,  although 
it  is  the  custom  for  her  to  have  as  much  sexual  intercourse 
as  she  likes.  When  asked  why  it  is  considered  bad,  they 
will  answer: — 

^^Pela  gala  tamala^  gala  taytala  bikofoH^^ 
\  "Because  no  father  his,  no  man  he  [who]  might  take 
[it]  in  his  arms." 

"Because  there  is  no  father  to  the  child,  there  is  no 
man  to  take  it  in  his  arms."  In  this  locution,  the  correct 
definition  of  the  term  tamala  is  clearly  expressed:  it  is 
the  mother's  husband,  the  man  whose  role  and  duty  it 
is  to  take  the  child  in  his  arms  and  to  help  her  in  nursing 
and  bringing  it  up. 



This  seems  a  convenient  place  to  speak  about  the  very 
interesting  problem  of  illegitimate  children,  or,  as  the 
natives  word  it,  "children  borne  by  unmarried  girls," 
"fatherless  children."  Several  questions  must,  no  doubt, 
have  already  obtruded  themselves  on  the  reader.  Since 
there  is  so  much  sexual  freedom,  must  there  not  be  a  great 
number  of  children  born  out  of  wedlock?  If  this  is  not 
so,  what  means  of  prevention  do  the  natives  possess?     If 



it  is  so,  how  do  they  deal  with  the  problem,  what  is  the 
position  of  illegitimate  children? 

As  to  the  first  question,  it  is  very  remarkable  to  note 
that  illegitimate  children  are  rare.  The  girls  seem  to 
remain  sterile  throughout  their  period  of  licence,  which 
begins  when  they  are  small  children  and  continues  until 
they  marry  j  when  they  are  married  they  conceive  and 
breed,  sometimes  quite  prolifically.  I  express  myself  cau- 
tiously about  the  number  of  illegitimate  children,  for  in 
most  cases  there  are  special  difficulties  even  in  ascertain- 
ing the  fact.  To  have  prenuptial  children  is,  as  I  have 
said,  by  an  arbitrary  ruling  of  doctrine  and  custom,  con- 
sidered reprehensible.  Thus,  out  of  delicacy  towards 
people  present,  out  of  family  interest  or  local  pride,  the 
existence  of  such  children  is  invariably  concealed.  Such 
children  are  often  adopted  by  some  relative,  and  the 
elasticity  of  kinship  terms  makes  it  very  difficult  to  dis- 
tinguish between  actual  and  adopted  children.  If  a  mar- 
ried man  says,  "This  is  my  child,"  it  may  quite  easily 
be  his  wife's  sister's  illegitimate  baby.  So  that  only  an 
approximate  estimate  can  be  made  even  in  a  community 
with  which  one  is  very  well  acquainted.  I  was  able  to 
find  roughly  a  dozen  illegitimate  children  recorded 
genealogically  in  the  Trobriands,  or  about  one  per  cent. 
In  this  the  illegitimate  children  of  the  ugly,  deformed,  or 
albino  women  mentioned  above  are  not  included,  as  none 
of  them  happens  to  figure  in  the  genealogical  records 
made  by  me. 

Thus  we  are  faced  with  the  question:  Why  are  there 



so  few  illegitimate  children?  On  this  subject  I  can  only 
speak  tentatively,  and  I  feel  that  my  information  is  per- 
haps not  quite  as  full  as  it  might  have  been,  had  I  con- 
centrated more  attention  upon  it.  One  thing  I  can  say 
with  complete  confidence:  no  preventive  means  of  any 
description  are  known,  nor  the  slightest  idea  of  them 
entertained.  This,  of  course,  is  quite  natural.  Since  the 
procreative  power  of  seminal  fluid  is  not  known,  since  it  is 
considered  not  only  innocuous  but  beneficent,  there  is 
no  reason  why  the  natives  should  interfere  with  its  free 
arrival  in  the  parts  which  it  is  meant  to  lubricate.  In- 
deed, any  suggestion  of  neo-Malthusian  appliances  makes 
them  shudder  or  laugh  according  to  their  mood  or  tem- 
perament. They  never  practice  coitus  interrupuSy  and 
still  less  have  any  notion  about  chemical  or  mechanical 

But  though  I  am  quite  certain  on  this  point,  I  cannot 
speak  with  the  same  conviction  about  abortion,  though 
probably  it  is  not  practised  to  any  large  extent.  I  may  say 
at  once  that  the  natives,  when  discussing  these  matters, 
feel  neither  fear  nor  constraint,  so  there  can  be  no  question 
of  any  difficulties  in  finding  out  the  state  of  affairs  because 
of  reticence  or  concealment.  My  informants  told  me  that 
a  magic  exists  to  bring  about  premature  birth,  but  I  was 
not  able  either  to  obtain  instances  in  which  it  was  per- 
formed, or  to  find  out  the  spells  or  rites  made  use  of. 
Some  of  the  herbs  employed  in  this  magic  were  mentioned 
to  me,  but  I  am  certain  that  none  of  them  possess  any 
physiological  properties.     Abortion  by  mechanical  means 



seems,  in  fine,  the  only  effective  method  practised  to  check 
the  increase  of  population,  and  there  is  no  doubt  that  even 
this  is  not  used  on  a  large  scale. 

So  the  problem  remains.  Can  there  be  any  physio- 
logical law  which  makes  conception  less  likely  when 
women  begin  their  sexual  life  young,  lead  it  indef atigably, 
and  mix  their  lovers  freely?  This,  of  course,  cannot  be 
answered  here,  as  it  is  a  purely  biological  question  j  but 
some  such  solution  of  the  diiiiculty  seems  to  me  the  only 
one,  unless  I  have  missed  some  very  important  eth- 
nological clue.  I  am,  as  I  have  said,  by  no  means  con- 
fident of  my  researches  being  final  in  this  matter. 

It  is  amusing  to  find  that  the  average  white  resident  or 
visitor  to  the  Trobriands  is  deeply  interested  in  this  sub- 
ject, and  in  this  subject  only,  of  all  the  ethnological  prob- 
lems opened  to  him  for  consideration.  There  is  a  belief 
prevalent  among  the  white  citizens  of  eastern  New 
Guinea  that  the  Trobrianders  are  in  possession  of  some 
mysterious  and  powerful  means  of  prevention  or  abortion. 
This  belief  is,  no  doubt,  explicable  by  the  remarkable 
and  puzzling  facts  which  we  have  just  been  discussing. 
It  is  enhanced  by  insufficient  knowledge,  and  the  tendency 
towards  exaggeration  and  sensationalism  so  characteristic 
of  the  crude  European  mind.  Of  insufficient  knowledge, 
I  had  several  examples  3  for  every  white  man  with  whom 
I  spoke  on  the  subject  would  start  with  the  dogmatic 
assertion  that  unmarried  girls  among  the  Trobrianders 
never  have  children,  saving  those  who  live  with  white 
traders  5  whereas,  as  we  have  seen,  illegitimate  children 
are  on  record.     Equally  incorrect  and  fantastic  is  the 



belief  in  mysterious  contraceptives,  for  which  not  even  the 
oldest  residents,  who  are  firmly  convinced  of  their  ex- 
istence, can  supply  any  basis  in  fact.  This  seems  to  be 
an  example  of  the  well-known  truth,  that  a  higher  race 
in  contact  with  a  lower  one  has  a  tendency  to  credit  the 
members  of  the  latter  with  mysterious  demoniacal  powers. 
Returning  now  to  the  question  of  "fatherless  children," 
we  find  among  the  Trobrianders  a  trend  of  public  opinion 
with  regard  to  illegitimacy  which  almost  amounts  to  a 
moral  rule.  We,  in  our  own  society,  share  this  opinion 
very  emphatically  j  but  with  us  it  is  connected  with  our 
strong  moral  condemnation  of  unchastity.  In  theory  at 
least,  if  not  in  practice,  we  condemn  the  fruits  of  sexual 
immorality,  because  of  the  cause  and  not  because  of  the 
consequence.  Our  syllogism  runs  thus:  "All  intercourse 
out  of  wedlock  is  bad  3  pregnancy  is  caused  by  intercourse  5 
hence  all  unmarried  pregnant  girls  are  bad."  Thus,  when 
we  find  in  another  society  the  last  term  of  the  syllogism 
endorsed,  we  jump  to  the  conclusion  that  the  other  terms 
also  obtain,  especially  the  middle  one.  That  is,  we  as- 
sume that  the  natives  are  aware  of  physiological  paternity. 
We  know,  however,  that  the  first  proposition  is  not  ac- 
cepted in  the  Trobriands,  for  intercourse  out  of  wedlock 
is  quite  free  from  censure  unless  it  offends  the  special 
taboos  of  adultery,  exogamy,  and  incest.  Therefore  the 
middle  term  cannot  serve  as  a  connecting  link,  and  the 
fact  that  the  natives  endorse  the  conclusion  proves  nothing 
about  their  knowledge  of  fatherhood.  I  have  developed 
this  point  in  some  detail,  because  it  is  a  characteristic 
example  of  how  difficult  is  emancipation  from  our  own 



narrow  modes  of  thinking  and  feeling,  and  our  own  rigid 
structures  of  social  and  moral  prejudice.  Although  I 
myself  should  have  been  on  my  guard  against  such  traps, 
and  though  at  that  time  I  was  already  acquainted  with 
the  Trobrianders  and  their  ways  of  thinking,  yet,  on 
realizing  their  disapproval  of  children  out  of  wedlock,  I 
went  through  all  this  false  reasoning  before  a  fuller 
acquaintance  with  the  facts  forced  me  to  correct  it. 

Fecundity  in  unmarried  girls  is  discreditable  j  sterility 
in  married  women  is  unfortunate.  The  same  term 
nakange  {na,  female  prefix,  karige^  to  die)  is  used  of  a 
childless  woman  as  of  a  barren  sow.  But  this  condition 
brings  no  shame  on  the  person  concerned,  and  does  not 
detract  from  the  social  status  of  such  a  woman.  The 
oldest  wife  of  To'uluwa,  Bokuyoba,  has  no  children,  yet 
she  ranks  first  among  the  wives  as  is  the  due  of  her  age. 
Nor  is  the  word  nakange  considered  to  be  indelicate;  a 
sterile  woman  will  use  it  when  speaking  of  herself,  and 
others  will  apply  it  to  her  in  her  presence.  But  fertility 
in  married  women  is  considered  a  good  thing.  Primarily 
it  affects  her  maternal  kinsmen,  and  is  a  matter  of  great 
importance  to  them  (see  ch.  i,  sec.  i).  '^The  kinsmen 
rejoice,  for  their  bodies  become  stronger  when  one  of  their 
sisters  or  nieces  has  plenty  of  children."  The  wording 
of  this  statement  expresses  the  interesting  conception  of 
collective  clan  unity,  of  the  members  being  not  only  of 
the  same  flesh,  but  almost  forming  one  body  (see  ch.  vi 
and  ch.  xiii,  sec.  5). 

Returning  again  to  the  main  trend  of  our  argument, 
it  must  be  noted  that  the  scorn  and  disapproval  levelled 



at  illegitimacy  is  highly  significant  sociologically.  Let 
us  realize  once  more  this  interesting  and  strange  constel- 
lation of  facts:  physical  fatherhood  is  unknown j  yet 
fatherhood  in  a  social  sense  is  considered  necessary  and 
the  "fatherless  child"  is  regarded  as  something  anom- 
alous, contrary  to  the  normal  course  of  events,  and  hence 
reprehensible.  What  does  this  mean?  Public  opinion, 
based  on  tradition  and  custom,  declares  that  a  woman 
must  not  become  a  mother  before  she  marries,  though  she 
may  enjoy  as  much  sexual  liberty  as  she  likes  within 
lawful  bounds.  This  means  that  a  mother  needs  a  de- 
fender and  provider  of  economic  necessities.  She  has  one 
natural  master  and  protector  in  her  brother,  but  he  is  not 
in  a  position  to  look  after  her  in  all  matters  where  she 
needs  a  guardian.  According  to  native  ideas,  a  woman 
who  is  pregnant  must,  at  a  certain  stage,  abstain  from  all 
intercourse  and  "turn  her  mind  away  from  men."  She 
then  needs  a  man  who  will  take  over  all  sexual  rights 
in  regard  to  her,  abstain  from  exercising  even  his  own 
privileges  from  a  certain  moment,  guard  her  from  any 
interference,  and  control  her  own  behaviour.  All  this  the 
brother  cannot  do,  for,  owing  to  the  strict  brother-sister 
taboo,  he  must  scrupulously  avoid  even  the  thought  of 
anything  which  is  concerned  with  his  sister's  sex.  Again, 
there  is  the  need  for  a  man  to  keep  guard  over  her  during 
childbirth,  and  "to  receive  the  child  into  his  arms,"  as 
the  natives  put  it.  Later  it  is  the  duty  of  this  man  to 
share  in  all  the  tender  cares  bestowed  on  the  child  (see 
ch.  i,  sees,  i  and  3  j  and  ch.  xiii,  sec.  6).  Only  when  the 
child  grows  up  does  he  relinquish  the  greater  part  of  his 



authority  and  hand  it  over  to  his  wife's  brother,  retaining 
some  of  it  in  the  case  of  female  children,  when  it  comes 
to  marriage  (see  above,  ch.  iv). 

Thus  the  part  played  by  the  husband  is  strictly  defined 
by  custom  and  is  considered  socially  indispensable.  A 
woman  with  a  child  and  no  husband  is  an  incomplete  and 
anomalous  group.  The  disapproval  of  an  illegitimate 
child  and  of  its  mother  is  a  particular  instance  of  the  gen- 
eral disapproval  of  everything  which  does  not  conform  to 
custom,  and  runs  counter  to  the  accepted  social  pattern 
and  traditional  tribal  organization.  The  family,  consist- 
ing of  husband,  wife,  and  children,  is  the  standard  set 
down  by  tribal  law,  which  also  defines  the  functions  of 
its  component  parts.  It  is  therefore  not  right  that  one  of 
the  members  of  this  group  should  be  missing. 

Thus,  though  the  natives  are  ignorant  of  any  physio- 
logical need  for  a  male  in  the  constitution  of  the  family, 
they  regard  him  as  indispensable  socially.  This  is  very 
important.  Paternity,  unknown  in  the  full  biological 
meaning  so  familiar  to  us,  is  yet  maintained  by  a  social 
dogma  which  declares:  "Every  family  must  have  a 
father  5  a  woman  must  marry  before  she  may  have  chil- 
dren ^  there  must  be  a  male  to  every  household." 

The  institution  of  the  individual  family  is  thus  firmly 
established  on  a  strong  feeling  of  its  necessity,  quite  com- 
patible with  an  absolute  ignorance  of  its  biological  foun- 
dations. The  sociological  role  of  the  father  is  established 
and  defined  without  any  recognition  of  his  physiological 




The  interesting  duality  between  matrilineal  and  patri^ 
archal  influences,  represented  by  the  mother's  brother 
and  the  father  respectively,  is  one  of  the  leitmotifs  of 
the  first  act  of  Trobriand  tribal  life.  Here  we  have  come 
to  the  very  core  of  the  problem:  for  we  see  within  this 
social  scheme,  with  its  rigid  brother-sister  taboo  and  its 
ignorance  of  physical  fatherhood,  two  natural  spheres  of 
influence  to  be  exercised  over  a  woman  by  a  man  (see 
ch.  i,  sees,  i  and  2) :  the  one,  that  of  sex,  from  which 
the  brother  is  absolutely  debarred  and  where  the  hus- 
band's influence  is  paramount  j  the  other,  that  in  which 
the  natural  interests  of  blood  relationship  can  be  safe- 
guarded properly  only  by  one  who  is  of  the  same  blood. 
This  is  the  sphere  of  the  woman's  brother. 

By  the  brother's  inability  to  control  or  to  approach, 
even  as  a  distant  spectator,  the  principal  theme  in  a 
woman's  life — ^her  sex — a  wide  breach  is  left  in  the  sys- 
tem of  matriliny.  Through  this  breach  the  husband 
enters  into  the  closed  circle  of  family  and  household,  and 
once  there  makes  himself  thoroughly  at  home.  To  his 
children  he  becomes  bound  by  the  strongest  ties  of  per- 
sonal attachment,  over  his  wife  he  assumes  exclusive 
sexual  rights,  and  shares  with  her  the  greater  part  of  do- 
mestic and  economic  concerns. 

On  the  apparently  unpropitious  soil  of  strict  matriliny, 
with  its  denial  of  any  paternal  bond  through  procreation 



and  its  declaration  of  the  father's  extraneousness  to 
progeny,  there  spring  up  certain  beliefs,  ideas  and  cus- 
tomary rules,  which  smuggle  extreme  patrilineal  prin- 
ciples into  the  stronghold  of  mother-right.  One  of  these 
ideas  is  of  the  kind  which  figures  so  largely  in  sensa- 
tional amateur  records  of  savage  life,  and  it  strikes  us 
at  first  as  savage  indeed,  so  lop-sided,  distorted  and  quaint 
does  it  appear.  I  refer  to  their  idea  about  the  similarity 
between  parents  and  offspring.  That  this  is  a  favourite 
topic  of  nursery  gossip  in  civilized  communities  needs  no 
special  comment.  In  a  matrilineal  society,  such  as  the 
Trobriands,  where  all  maternal  relatives  are  considered 
to  be  of  the  "same  body,"  and  the  father  to  be  a 
^^stranger,"  we  should  have  no  doubt  in  anticipating  that 
facial  and  bodily  similarity  would  be  traced  in  the 
mother's  family  alone.  The  contrary  is  the  case,  how- 
ever, and  this  is  afiirmed  with  extremely  strong  social 
emphasis.  Not  only  is  it  a  household  dogma,  so  to  speak, 
that  a  child  never  resembles  its  mother,  or  any  of  its 
brothers  and  sisters,  or  any  of  its  maternal  kinsmen,  but 
it  is  extremely  bad  form  and  a  great  offence  to  hint  at  any 
such  similarity.  To  resemble  one's  father,  on  the  other 
hand,  is  the  natural,  right,  and  proper  thing  for  a  man 
or  woman  to  do. 

I  was  introduced  to  this  rule  of  savoir  vivre  in  the  usual 
way,  by  making  a  faux  fas.  One  of  my  bodyguard  in 
Omarakana,  named  Moradeda,  was  endowed  with  a 
peculiar  cast  of  features  which  had  struck  me  at  first 
sight  and  fascinated  me,  for  it  had  a  strange  similarity  to 
the  Australian  aboriginal  type — ^wavy  hair,  broad  face, 



low  forehead,  extremely  broad  nose,  with  a  much  de- 
pressed bridge,  wide  mouth  with  protruding  lips,  and  a 
prognathous  chin.  One  day  I  was  struck  by  the  appear- 
ance of  an  exact  counterpart  to  Moradeda,  and  asked  his 
name  and  whereabouts.  When  I  was  told  that  he  was  my 
friend's  elder  brother,  living  in  a  distant  village,  I  ex- 
claimed: "Ah,  truly!  I  asked  about  you  because  your 
face  is  alike — alike  to  that  of  Moradeda."  There  came 
such  a  hush  over  all  the  assembly  that  I  was  startled  by  it 
at  once.  The  man  turned  round  and  left  usj  while  part 
of  the  company  present,  after  averting  their  faces  in  a 
manner  half-embarrassed,  half -off  ended,  soon  dispersed. 
I  was  then  told  by  my  confidential  informants  that  I  had 
committed  a  breach  of  custom  ^  that  I  had  perpetrated 
what  is  called  tafutaki  migilay  a  technical  expression  re- 
ferring only  to  this  act  which  might  be  translated:  "To- 
defile-by-comparing-to-a-kinsman-his-face"  (see  ch.  xiii, 
sec.  4).  What  astonished  me  in  this  discussion  was  that, 
in  spite  of  the  striking  resemblance  between  the  two 
brothers,  my  informants  refused  to  admit  it.  In  fact, 
they  treated  the  question  as  if  no  one  could  possibly  ever 
resemble  his  brother,  or,  for  the  matter  of  that,  any 
maternal  kinsman.  I  made  my  informants  quite  angry 
and  displeased  with  me  by  arguing  the  point,  and  even 
more  so  by  quoting  cases  of  such  obvious  similarity  be- 
tween two  brothers  as  that  which  obtained  between 
Namwana  Guya'u  and  Yobukwa'u  (pi.  40). 

This  incident  taught  me  never  to  hint  at  such  a  re- 
semblance in  the  presence  of  the  people  concerned.  But 
I  thrashed  the  matter  out  with  many  natives  subsequently 



in  the  course  of  general  conversation.  I  found  that  every- 
one in  the  Trobriands  will,  in  the  teeth  of  all  the  evi- 
dence, stoutly  deny  that  similarity  can  exist  between 
matrilineal  kinsmen.  A  Trobriander  is  simply  irritated 
and  insulted  if  striking  instances  are  pointed  out  to  him, 
in  exactly  the  same  way  as,  in  our  own  society,  we  irritate 
our  next-door  neighbour  by  bringing  before  him  a  glaring 
truth  which  contradicts  some  cherished  opinion,  political, 
religious,  or  moral,  or  which,  still  worse,  runs  counter  to 
his  personal  interests. 

The  Trobrianders  maintain  that  mention  of  such  like- 
nesses can  only  be  made  to  insult  a  man.  It  is,  in  fact, 
a  technical  phrase  in  serious  bad  language  to  say  migim 
lumuta,  "Thy  face  thy  sister's,"  which,  by  the  way,  is  the 
worst  combination  of  kinship  similarity.  This  expression 
is  considered  quite  as  bad  as  "have  intercourse  with  thy 
sister!"  But,  according  to  a  Trobriander,  no  sane  and 
decent  man  can  possibly  entertain  in  a  sober  dispassionate 
mood  such  an  outrageous  thought  as  that  anyone  should 
in  the  slightest  degree  resemble  his  sister  (see  ch.  xiii, 
sec.  4). 

Still  more  remarkable  is  the  counterpart  to  this  social 
dogma  j  namely,  that  every  child  resembles  its  father. 
Such  similarity  is  always  assumed  and  affirmed  to  exist. 
Where  it  is  really  found,  even  to  a  small  degree,  constant 
attention  is  drawn  to  it  as  to  a  thing  which  is  nice,  good 
and  right.  It  was  often  pointed  out  to  me  how  strongly 
one  or  other  of  the  sons  of  To'uluwa,  the  chief  of  Omara- 
kana,  resembled  his  father,  and  the  old  man  was  especially 
proud  of  the  more  or  less  imaginary  resemblance  between 



himself  and  his  youngest  son,  Dipapa  (see  pi.  41 ).  Espe- 
cially were  the  five  favourite  sons  of  himself  and  Kadam- 
wasila  each  said  to  be  exactly  like  his  father.  When 
I  pointed  out  that  this  similarity  to  the  father  implied 
similarity  to  each  other,  such  a  heresy  was  indignantly 
repudiated.  There  are  also  definite  customs  which  em- 
body this  dogma  of  patrilineal  similarity.  Thus,  after 
a  man's  death,  his  kinsmen  and  friends  will  come  from 
time  to  time  to  visit  his  children  in  order  to  "see  his  face 
in  theirs."  They  will  give  them  presents,  and  sit  looking 
at  them  and  wailing.  This  is  said  to  soothe  their  insides 
because  they  have  seen  once  more  the  likeness  of  the  dead. 
How  do  the  natives  reconcile  the  inconsistency  of  this 
dogma  with  the  matrilineal  system?  When  questioned 
they  will  say:  "Yes,  maternal  kinsmen  are  the  same  flesh, 
but  similar  faces  they  have  not."  When  you  inquire 
again  why  it  is  that  people  resemble  their  father,  who  is 
a  stranger  and  has  nothing  to  do  with  the  formation  of 
their  body,  they  have  a  stereotyped  answer:  "It  coagulates 
the  face  of  the  child  j  for  always  he  lies  with  her,  they 
sit  together."  The  expression  kuliy  to  coagulate,  to 
mould,  was  used  over  and  over  again  in  the  answers  which 
I  received.  This  is  a  statement  of  the  social  doctrine 
concerning  the  influence  of  the  father  over  the  physique 
of  the  child,  and  not  merely  the  personal  opinion  of  my 
informants.  One  of  my  informants  explained  it  to  me 
more  exactly,  turning  his  open  hands  to  me  palm  up- 
wards: "Put  some  soft  mash  {sesa)  on  it,  and  it  will 
mould  like  the  hand.  In  the  same  manner,  the  husband 
remains  with  the  woman  and  the  child  is  moulded."    An- 



other  man  told  me:  "Always  we  give  food  from  our  hand 
to  the  child  to  eat,  we  give  fruit  and  dainties,  we  give 
betel  nut.    This  makes  the  child  as  it  is." 

I  also  discussed  the  existence  of  half-castes  with  my 
informants,  children  of  white  traders  married  to  native 
women.  I  pointed  out  that  some  look  much  more  like 
natives  than  like  Europeans.  This,  again,  they  simply 
denied,  maintaining  stoutly  that  all  these  children  have 
white  men's  faces,  and  giving  this  as  another  proof  of 
their  doctrine.  There  was  no  way  of  shaking  their  con- 
viction, or  of  diminishing  their  dislike  of  the  idea  that 
anyone  can  resemble  his  mother  or  her  people,  an  idea 
condemned  by  the  tradition  and  the  good  manners  of  the 

Thus  we  see  that  an  artificial  physical  link  between 
father  and  child  has  been  introduced,  and  that  on  one 
important  point  it  has  overshadowed  the  matrilineal  bond. 
For  physical  resemblance  is  a  very  strong  emotional  tie 
between  two  people,  and  its  strength  is  hardly  reduced 
by  its  being  ascribed,  not  to  a  physiological,  but  to  a  soci- 
ological cause — that  of  continued  association  between  hus- 
band and  wife. 

I  have  to  record  one  more  important  assertion  of 
father-right  in  this  matrilineal  society,  one  of  a  purely 
social  and  economic  nature.  That  there  is  a  compromise 
between  the  two  principles  of  matriliny  and  paternal 
influence  in  social  and  economic  matt?ers,  we  have  already 
seen  5  but  it  is  worth  while  to  restate  this  briefly  here,  and 
to  mention  its  most  peculiar  feature. 

The  matrilineal  principle  is  maintained  by  the  more 



rigid  rules  of  tribal  law.  These  rules  decree  absolutely 
that  a  child  must  belong  to  the  family,  sub-clan,  and  clan 
of  its  mother.  Less  absolutely  but  still  very  strictly,  they 
regulate  the  membership  of  a  village  community  and  the 
office  of  magician.  They  also  assign  all  inheritance  of 
land,  privileges  and  material  goods  to  mother-line.  But 
here  a  number  of  customs  and  usages  allow,  if  not  an 
evasion,  at  least  a  compromise  and  modification  of  tribal 
law.  By  these  usages,  a  father  can,  for  his  own  lifetime, 
grant  the  right  of  citizenship  in  his  village  to  his  son 
and  bestow  upon  him  the  usufruct  of  canoes,  lands,  cere- 
monial privileges,  and  magic.  By  cross-cousin  marriage, 
combined  with  matrilocal  residence,  he  can  even  secure 
all  these  things  to  his  son  for  life. 

All  this  we  know  already,  but  here  we  have  td  note  one 
more  important  difference  in  the  transmission  of  material 
goods  and  privileges,  as  from  maternal  uncle  to  a  nephew 
on  the  one  hand,  and  a  father  to  a  son  on  the  other.  A 
man  is  obliged  to  relinquish  all  his  possessions  and  offices 
to  his  younger  brother  or  maternal  nephew  at  death.  But 
usually  the  younger  man  wants  to  possess  some  of  these 
things  during  his  senior's  lifetime  3  and  it  is  customary  for 
a  maternal  uncle  to  part  with  a  portion  of  his  gardens 
or  some  of  his  magic  while  he  is  still  living.  But  in  such 
cases  he  has  to  be  paid  for  it,  and  the  payment  is  often 
quite  substantial.  It  is  called  by  the  special  technical 
name  pokala.^ 

When  a  man  gives  any  of  these  things  to  his  son,  on 

1  This  word  has  more  than  one  meaning:  it  denotes  several  types  of 
economic  transaction.  Compare  ArQonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  index 
s.v.  pokala. 



the  other  hand,  he  does  it  of  his  free  will,  and  quite 
gratuitously.  Thus,  a  maternal  nephew,  or  younger 
brother,  has  the  right  to  claim  his  share,  and  always  re- 
ceives it  if  he  gives  the  first  instalment  of  the  fokala. 
The  son  relies  on  his  father's  goodwill,  which,  as  a  rule, 
works  very  effectively  on  his  behalf,  and  he  receives  all 
the  gifts  for  nothing.  The  man  who  has  the  right  to  the 
things  has  to  pay  for  them,  while  the  man  who  receives 
them  without  the  sanction  of  tribal  law  gets  them  gratis. 
Of  course  he  has  to  return  them,  at  least  in  part,  after  his 
father's  death j  but  the  use  and  enjoyment  he  has  had 
of  material  benefits  remain  his,  while  the  magic  he  cannot 

The  natives  explain  this  anomalous  state  of  things  by 
the  father's  partiality  to  his  children,  which,  in  its  turn, 
is  accounted  for  by  his  relation  to  their  mother.  The 
natives  say  that  his  free  gifts  to  the  children  are  a  reward 
for  the  free  cohabitation  which  he  enjoys  with  his  wife.^ 

1 1  have  dealt  with  the  relation  between  tribal   law   and  the  usages 
which  are  formed  in  reaction  to  it  in  Crime  and  Custom,  esp.  pt.  ii,  ch.  iii. 




We  had  to  make  a  digression  into  the  domain  of  soci- 
ology, led  thereto  by  the  Trobriand  beliefs  concerning 
procreation  and  spiritual  incarnation  and  the  great  in- 
fluence which  these  exert  upon  family  and  kinship.  Let 
us  now  resume  our  consecutive  account  by  considering  the 
course  of  pregnancy  and  childbirth.  In  the  first  two 
sections  of  this  chapter  I  shall  describe  one  observance 
which  is  of  outstanding  interest  to  the  ethnologist:  the 
special  public  ceremonial  performed  when  a  woman  is 
passing  through  her  first  pregnancy.  The  succeeding  two 
sections  will  be  devoted  to  the  customs  associated  with 
childbirth  and  maternity  in  general. 


Pregnancy  is  first  diagnosed  by  the  swelling  of  the 
breasts  and  the  darkening  of  the  nipples.  At  this  time 
a  woman  may  dream  that  the  spirit  of  one  of  her  kins- 
women brings  her  the  child  from  the  other  world  to  be 
reincarnated.  If  during  the  next  two  or  three  moons  her 
menstrual  flow  makes  no  appearance,  then,  say  the  natives, 
it  is  certain  that  she  has  become  pregnant  (isuma). 
Native  embryology  teaches  that  four  moons  after  the  ap- 



pearance  of  the  haloma  in  the  dream  the  abdomen  begins 
to  swell  3  and  when  this  stage  in  a  first  pregnancy  is 
reached,  the  relatives  of  the  mother-to-be  take  steps  to 
provide  her  with  certain  ceremonial  garments  prescribed 
by  custom  5  a  plain  white  fibre  petticoat,  and  a  long  cloak 
{saykeulo)  of  the  same  material  (pi.  42).  These  will  be 
given  to  her  in  about  the  fifth  moon  of  her  pregnancy 
with  a  great  deal  of  ceremony,  and  she  will  wear  them  on 
that  occasion  for  a  month  or  two  and  also  after  she  has 
given  birth  to  the  child.  This  ceremony  is  never  per- 
formed for  an  igamugwa^  a  woman  who  has  already  been 
pregnant,  but  only  for  an  igava^Uy  a  woman  who  conceives 
for  the  first  time. 

As  with  every  other  ceremonial  occasion  in  the  Trobri- 
ands,  this  presentation  of  the  fibre  cloak  has  its  place  in 
a  definite  sociological  scheme.  The  duties  connected  with 
it  are  distributed  among  certain  relatives  who  subsequently 
receive  an  appropriate  payment.  The  task  of  making  the 
robes  and  of  offering  them  to  the  igava^u  falls  to  the 
female  relatives  of  the  girPs  father — the  women  whom 
she  calls  generically  tahugu — and  the  lead  is  taken  by 
the  father's  own  sister.  We  have  already  seen  on  an 
earlier  occasion  of  great  importance  in  the  life  of  a  girl, 
namely  when  her  marriage  is  about  to  be  concluded,  that 
it  is  the  father,  and  not  her  official  guardian,  the  mother's 
brother,  whose  consent  is  decisive  and  who  has  to  super- 
vise the  whole  affair.  Again,  in  this  later  crisis,  it  is  the 
father  and  his  matrilineal  kinswomen  who  take  the  active 
part.  The  father  summons  his  sister,  his  mother,  and  his 
xiiece,  and  says  to  them:  "Well,  come  to  my  house  and  cut 



the  saykeulo  for  your  niece,  my  daughter."  The  father's 
sister  then  takes  the  lead,  and  rouses  as  many  of  her  kins- 
women as  possible  to  help  in  the  work.  They  come  to- 
gether, talk  the  matter  over,  and  arrange  when  they  will 
begin.  The  saykeulo  is  always  made  in  front  of  the 
father's  house,  or,  if  he  be  a  chief,  on  the  central  place 
of  his  village.  The  women  sit  down  in  a  wide  circle  round 
a  heap  of  banana  leaves  to  which  every  worker  has  con- 
tributed several  bundles,  frayed  ready  for  use.  Then  the 
pieces  are  bound  together,  amid  continuous  chatter  and  a 
hubbub  of  voices  and  laughter.  It  is  an  exclusively  fe- 
male  gathering,  and  no  man  with  any  sense  of  decency 
and  etiquette  would  come  near.  Four  garments  have  to 
be  made:  two  long  mantles  and  two  skirts.  One  of  the 
mantles  is  to  be  worn  at  the  initial  celebration  of  first 
pregnancy  and  the  second  when  the  mother  first  appears 
in  public  after  her  confinement  3  the  two  skirts  are  also  for 
use  after  the  birth.  The  four  garments  can  be  easily 
finished  at  one  sitting,  though  a  second  is  sometimes 
necessary  when  there  are  too  many  gossips  present  for  the 
work  to  go  quickly.  When  the  garments  are  finished, 
usually  in  the  afternoon,  the  workers  pass  to  the  magical 
part  of  the  performance.  For,  as  always  in  the  making 
of  a  really  important  object,  or  one  which  has  to  be  en- 
dowed with  definite  properties  and  powers,  magic  is  an 
essential  part  of  the  process  of  production. 

I  had  good  opportunities  for  studying  the  magic  of 
pregnancy  robes.  I  observed  and  photographed  the  rites 
in  progress  at  the  village  of  Tukwa'ukwa,  and  in  the  same 
village  I  obtained  the  formula  of  saykeulo  magic,  as  it 



was  then  recited,  also  I  discussed  the  ceremonial  with  the 
actual  performers,  as  well  as  with  women  in  other  lo- 

The  rite  is  simple,  but  interesting,  for  it  reveals  the 
native  ideas  of  the  nature  of  magical  force  and  of  the 
way  in  which  it  operates.  A  mat  is  spread  on  the  ground 
and  the  four  pregnancy  garments  are  placed  upon  it  (pi. 
43  ) .  The  women  have  brought  with  them  the  fleshy  lower 
parts  of  certain  creamy  white  leaves,  which  come  from  a 
lily  plant  bearing  a  snow-white  flower.  These  are  cut 
into  pieces  (pi.  44)  and  strewn  over  the  robes.  Those 
among  the  robe-makers  who  know  the  formula — and 
there  are  always  several  of  them — kneel  round  the 
bundle,  and,  bending  over  it,  thrust  their  faces  right  into 
the  fibre  stufiF  (pi.  43),  so  that  it  may  be  well  permeated 
with  the  breath  which  carries  the  magic  words : 

"O  bwaytuva  (a  bird  similar  to  the  reef  heron  but 
with  quite  white  plumage),  hover  over  Waybeva  (the 
creek  of  Tukwa'ukwa  village),  swoop  down  to  Mkikiya 
(the  waterhole  of  the  village) !  O  bwaytuva y  hover  over 
Mkikiya,  swoop  down  to  Waybeva!" 

This  is  the  exordium  {u*ula)^  the  opening  part  of  the 
magical  formula,  in  which,  as  we  see,  a  white  bird  is  in- 
vited to  hover  over  the  bathing  place  and  the  principal 
water  supply  of  the  village.^  Then  follows  the  main  part 
{ta'pwana)  of  the  spell.  In  this  the  phrase  bwaytuva 
ikata — "the  bwaytuva  bird  sharpens"  (i.e.  makes  brilliant 
or  resplendent) — is  repeated  with  various  words,  each  of 

1  For  the  structure  and  general  characteristics  of  the  Trobriand  spells 
see  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  ch.  xviii. 



which  describes  a  part  of  the  pregnancy  robe.  In  the 
Trobriandsj  as  no  doubt  in  every  other  society,  each  detail 
of  a  lady's  garment  is  carefully  defined  and  has  its 
specific  name.  These  are  enumerated  and  coupled  one 
by  one  with  the  leading  phrase.  Thus  the  formula  con- 
tains a  series  of  such  incantations  as  "the  hwaytuva  bird 
makes  resplendent  the  top  hem  of  the  robe,"  "the  hway- 
tuva bird  makes  resplendent  the  fringe  of  the  robe,"  and 
so  on.  Then  the  same  phrase  is  repeated  with  various 
words  describing  parts  of  the  body:  "the  hwaytuva  bird 
makes  resplendent  the  head  of  my  tahu  (my  brother's 
child),"  "the  hwaytuva  makes  resplendent  the  nose  of  my 
brother's  child"  j  and  so  on  to  the  cheeks,  the  chest,  the 
belly,  the  groins,  the  buttocks,  the  thighs,  the  knees,  the 
calves,  and  the  feet.  The  formula  thus  enumerates  every 
part  of  the  body  with  a  consistent  pedantry  characteristic 
of  Trobriand  magic.  The  end-part  {dogina)  runs  thus: 
"No  more  is  it  her  head,  her  head  is  like  the  pallor 
before  dawnj  no  more  is  it  her  face,  her  face  is  like  the 
white  sprouts  of  a  young  leaf  of  the  areca  plant  5  praise 
her  by  robbing  Jher  house!  praise  her  by  demanding  a 
tilewaH  (flattery  gift)!" 

This  formula  expresses,  in  terms  of  magic,  a  wish  to 
improve  the  personal  appearance  of  the  wearer  of  the 
robes,  and  it  is  especially  associated  with  the  whiteness 
of  her  skin.  A  bird  of  beautiful  form  and  of  brilliantly 
white  plumage  is  invoked  at  the  beginning,  and  its  name 
acts  as  the  most  powerful  charm  in  the  principal  part  of 
the  formula.  Its  association  with  the  names  of  the  creek 
and  the  waterhole  in  which  the  pregnant  woman  has  ta 



bathe  and  wash,  may  possess  the  power  to  whiten  her  skin. 

The  conclusion  anticipates  the  result,  a  form  very 
common  in  the  Trobriand  spells:  the  face  of  the  pregnant 
woman  becomes  pallid  like  the  white  sky  before  dawn,  and 
like  the  young  sprouts  of  areca.  The  last  two  sentences 
of  the  formula  refer  to  the  curious  custom  which  allows 
anyone  who  gives  flattery  or  praise  after  a  remarkable 
achievement  or  performance  and  removes  a  piece  of 
decoration  as  a  pledge,  to  demand  a  special  gift,  tile^d*L 
In  the  case  of  a  still  more  remarkable  achievement,  the 
lucky  man  who  is  to  gain  by  it  may  have  to  see  all  his 
belongings  on  which  the  members  of  the  community  can 
lay  hand  kwaykwaya — that  is,  "taken  away  as  expression 
of  admiration."  The  remarkable  achievement  thus  fore- 
shadowed in  the  first  pregnancy  rites  is  the  resplendent 
whiteness  of  the  pregnant  woman's  skin. 

From  another  village — Omarakana — I  obtained  the 
initial  fragment  of  the  magic  used  there  by  certain  women. 
In  this  formula  also  a  bird  is  addressed: 

"O  white  pigeon,  come,  lull  our  pregnancy  cloak  to 
sleep.    I  shall  go  and  lull  your  egg  to  sleep." 

The  pigeon  invoked  is  notable  for  the  whiteness  of  its 
plumage  and  of  its  egg's  shell.  The  "lulling"  of  the 
pregnancy  cloak  refers,  it  is  said,  to  the  child  to  be  born, 
whose  skin  should  also  be  made  white.  We  shall  have 
to  speak  at  some  length  about  this  fundamental  idea  of 
whitening  the  skin  which  underlies  the  pregnancy  cere- 

In  their  general  character,  the  proceedings  are  similar 
to  most  rites  in  the  Trobriands.    The  women  finish  the 



robe  and  then,  in  very  much  the  same  business-like 
manner,  go  on  to  the  magic.  The  white  lily  leaves  are 
cut  by  one  of  them  immediately  after  the  robe  is  finished 
(pi.  44),  and  the  garment  is  spread  on  the  mat  by  another. 
While  the  magic  is  being  recited  (pi.  43),  no  disturbing 
noises  are  allowed,  but  neither  is  anyone  excluded  3  the 
onlookers  adopt  no  special  attitude,  nor  have  they  any 
observances  to  keep.  After  the  women  have  impregnated 
the  robes  with  the  magical  virtues  of  the  spell,  they  beat 
the  bundle  with  their  palms.  This  increases  the  garments' 
power  of  imparting  whiteness  to  the  wearer.  The  tap- 
ping is  conceived  as  the  "waking  up  of  the  garment." 
The  rite  is  called  yuvisila  saykeulo^  the  breathing  over  of 
the  pregnancy  robe.  The  four  robes,  together  with  the 
white  cut  leaves  strewn  over  them,  are  now  covered  with 
another  mat,  so  that  the  magic  may  not  evaporate,  and 
the  whole  bundle  is  placed  in  the  house  of  the  principal 
tahulay  the  father's  sister. 


On  the  day  following  the  making  and  charming  of  the 
robe,  the  actual  investment  of  the  pregnant  woman  takes 
place.  With  this  is  associated  her  public  bathing  and 
washing  and  her  magical  adornment.  I  shall  describe 
the  ceremony  as  I  saw  it  in  the  village  of  Tukwa'ukwa, 
where,  in  May,  191 8,  I  and  my  friend,  the  late  Mr. 
B.  Hancock,  were  able  to  take  photographs  of  it  (pis.  43, 
44,  45,  46,  49,  and  50).     My  friend  had  also  photo- 



graphed  and  recorded  the  ceremony  about  a  year  before 
when  it  had  taken  place  in  the  same  village  (pis.  42,  47, 
and  48).  In  the  course  of  my  narrative,  I  shall  indicate 
such  local  differences  as  obtain  between  the  coastal  vil- 
lages, of  which  Tukwa'ukwa  is  one,  and  the  inland  set- 
tlements, distant  from  the  seashore. 

Very  early  in  the  morning,  the  whole  village,  or  at 
least  all  its  female  inhabitants,  are  astir  and  preparing 
for  the  spectacle.  The  tabula  (father's  sister  and  other 
paternal  relatives)  forgather  in  the  father's  hut,  where 
the  pregnant  woman  awaits  them.  When  all  is  ready, 
the  prospective  mother  proceeds  to  the  seashore,  walking 
between  two  of  her  tabula. 

From  the  inland  villages  not  too  far  distant  from  the 
sea,  the  procession  would  also  go  down  to  the  beach  j  but 
those  villages  far  enough  away  to  consider  themselves 
"inland  people"  perform  the  pregnancy  bath  at  the  water- 
hole  where  they  usually  wash.  If  the  woman  is  of  high 
rank,  she  will  be  carried  all  the  way  to  the  shore  or  to  the 
waterhole.  In  the  ceremony,  only  women  take  an  active 

Tukwa'ukwa  lies  right  on  a  tidal  inlet  of  the  lagoon, 
and  the  woman  was  carried  to  the  beach  by  her  female 
tabula.  Since  this  is  a  purely  female  ceremony,  good 
manners  indicate  that  no  man  should  participate,  and  men 
would  not  enter  the  water  to  look  at  the  performance. 
There  is  no  specific  taboo,  however,  nor  were  any  objec- 
tions raised  to  my  presence. 

Arrived  at  the  water's  edge,  the  women  arrange  them- 
selves in  two  rows,  facing  each  other,  and  join  hands  with 



their  opposite  partners  crosswise,  in  the  manner  called  by 
children  "queen's  chair."  Over  this  living  bridge  the 
pregnant  woman  walks,  holding  on  by  the  women's  heads, 
and  as  she  advances,  the  rear  couple  move  to  the  front, 
constantly  extending  the  bridge.  Thus  they  go  some  dis- 
tance into  the  water,  the  pregnant  woman  walking  dry 
foot  on  the  arms  of  her  companions  (pi.  45).  At  a  cer- 
tain point  she  is  allowed  to  jump  into  the  water.  Then 
they  all  begin  to  play  with  one  another,  the  prospective 
miother  being  always  the  centre  of  the  game.  Her  com- 
panions splash  water  over  her,  and  duck  and  drench  her 
to  the  utmost,  all  in  a  spirit  of  exuberant  good-natured 
playfulness  (pi.  46).  It  is  the  duty  of  the  tabula  to  see 
that  the  woman  is  well  washed  during  the  ceremonial 
bath.  "We  rub  her  skin  with  our  hands,  we  rub  her  sur- 
face, we  cleanse  her." 

The  drenching  and  washing  being  thoroughly  done, 
she  is  brought  on  to  the  shore  and  placed  on  a  mat.  Al- 
though on  most  occasions  she  is  carried  by  her  relatives 
to  the  beach,  from  this  moment  she  has  to  be  completely 
isolated  from  the  earth,  and  must  not  touch  the  soil  with 
her  feet.  She  is  placed  on  a  coconut  mat  and  her  tabula 
(father's  maternal  relatives)  proceed  to  make  her  toilet 
very  carefully  and  with  an  elaborate  magic  ritual.  This 
magic  of  beauty  has  certain  affinities  with  the  ceremonial 
performed  by  men  during  the  kula  expeditions  (see  Ar- 
gonauts of  the  Western  Pacific y  ch.  xiii,  sec.  i),  though 
the  spells  of  men  and  women  differ.^    It  is,  on  the  other 

II  have  stated  in  the  above-mentioned  work,  on  p.  336,  that  "This 
branch  of  Kula  magic  has  two  counterparts  in  the  other  magical  lore  of 
the  Trobrianders.     One  of  them  is  the  love  magic,  through  which  people 



hand,  identical  in  spell  and  rite  with  the  beauty  magic 
performed  by  women  on  men  at  great  dancing  festivals  j 
in  fact,  the  spells  which  I  obtained  at  the  pregnancy  rites 
and  which  are  given  later  in  this  book,  are  used  on  either 
occasion  (see  ch.  xi,  sees.  2-4). 

After  her  bath,  the  pregnant  woman  has  first  to  be 
rubbed  and  dried.  This  is  done  ritually.  Some  coconut 
husk  fibre,  which  is  kept  ready  at  hand,  is  charmed  over 
with  the  kaykakaya  spell  by  the  tabula  (father's  sister) 
and  the  skin  of  the  young  woman  is  rubbed.^  Then  some 
of  the  soft  spongy  leaves  of  the  wageva  plant,  which 
usually  serve  the  native  as  a  natural  towel,  are  charmed 
with  another  formula  and  the  woman  is  rubbed  again. 
After  her  skin  has  been  thoroughly  dried,  the  pregnant 
woman  is  anointed  with  charmed  coconut  oil,  and  the 
attendants  put  a  new  brightly  coloured  fibre  skirt  on  her, 
while  the  wet  bathing  skirt  is  removed  from  underneath. 
This  festive  skirt  is  not  one  of  those  recently  made  for 
the  pregnancy,  nor  is  its  putting  on  associated  with  any 
magical  rite.     But  a  purely  magical  action  follows:  the 

are  rendered  attractive  and  irresistible.  Their  belief  in  these  spells  is 
such  that  a  man  would  always  attribute  all  his  success  in  love  to  their 
efficiency.  Another  type  closely  analogous  to  the  beauty  magic  of  the 
Kula  is  the  specific  beauty  magic  practised  before  big  dances  and  fes- 
tivities." This  statement  is  slipshod,  in  that  the  real  counterparts  of 
mnuasila  {kula  magic)  of  beauty  are  the  magic  performed  on  dancers  and 
described  here  in  ch.  xi,  and  the  magic  of  pregnancy  with  which  we  are 
dealing  just  now.  The  three  forms,  miuasila,  pregnancy  rites  and  festive 
beauty  magic  are,  in  fact,  akin  to  each  other,  though  only  pregnancy 
magic  and  the  festive  ritual  are  the  same  in  spell  and  rite,  while  the 
mnvasila  resembles  both  only  in  aim  and  doctrine.  Love  magic,  though 
presenting  some  similarities,  not  only  differs  profoundly  in  rite  and  spell, 
but  is  based  on  a  special  native  doctrine.     (Cf.  below,  ch.  xi.) 

1  For  the  text  of  this  and  the  subsequent  spells  here  mentioned,  see 
below,  ch.  xi,  sec.  3  and  4.  The  spells  of  mivasila,  quoted  on  pp.  337-342 
of  Argonauts,  should  also  be  consulted. 



face  of  the  young  woman  is  stroked  with  a  mother-of- 
pearl  shell  while  one  of  the  tabula  mutters  a  spell  of 
beauty  (see  ch.  xi,  sec.  4).  The  three  acts  of  the  cere- 
monial so  far  described  are  supposed  to  make  her  skin 
smooth,  clear,  and  soft,  and  her  appearance  generally 
beautiful.  Several  successive  stages  of  personal  decoration 
follow,  each  performed  in  a  ritual  manner.  First,  mut- 
tering a  magical  formula,  a  tabula  decorates  the  prospec- 
tive mother's  mouth  and  face  with  red  paint.  After  that 
black  paint  is  applied  to  the  face  with  another  spell. 
Then  the  hair  is  combed  while  yet  another  formula  is 
recited.  Red  hibiscus  flowers  are  fastened  in  her  hair, 
and  aromatic  leaves  with  charms  breathed  into  them 
thrust  into  her  armlets.  After  this  the  young  woman  is 
considered  to  be  fully  arrayed. 

All  this  ritual  dressing  and  adornment  is  associated 
with  beauty  magic,  which  custom  and  tradition  impose  at 
this  stage  but  which  stands  in  no  direct  connection  with 
pregnancy  or  the  pregnancy  robes.  Only  when  this 
beauty  magic  has  been  performed  may  the  proper  preg- 
nancy rite,  the  investment  with  the  long  robe,  be  car- 
ried out.  The  tabula  place  one  of  the  two  saykeulo  (preg- 
nancy robes)  on  the  young  woman's  shoulders,  and  once 
more  recite  the  formula  used  in  the  making  of  it,  breath- 
ing the  charm  right  into  the  robe  (see  pi.  47).  It  is  also 
customary  at  this  point,  though  not  imperative,  to  recite 
over  her  some  magic  against  the  dangers  of  pregnancy 
and  childbirth,  a  magic  prophylactic  against  the  special 
evil  of  sorcery,  which  is  always  dreaded  at  a  confinement 
(see  next  section). 



Throughout  this  ritual  the  prospective  mother  has  been, 
standing  on  a  mat,  for,  as  we  have  already  said,  her  bare 
feet  must  not  touch  the  soil  after  the  bath.  Now,  dressed 
in  full  dress  and  covered  with  the  long  fibre  mantle,  she 
is  lifted  up  by  two  of  her  tabula  (pis.  48  and  49)  and 
carried  to  her  father's  house,  where  a  small  platform  has 
been  erected  on  which  she  is  set  down  (pi.  50).  It  is 
customary  for  a  woman  of  chieftain's  rank  to  go,  not  to 
her  father's,  but  to  her  maternal  uncle's  house,  and  there 
to  remain  seated  on  a  high  platform. 

Upon  this  platform  the  woman  has  to  stay  for  the 
rest  of  the  day.  During  that  time  she  must  remain  prac- 
tically motionless,  she  must  not  speak  except  to  ask  for 
food  or  drink,  and  even  this  she  ought  if  possible  to  do 
by  signs.  She  must  not  touch  food  with  her  hands  5  it  is 
put  into  her  mouth  by  her  tabula.  Her  immobility  is  only 
broken  from  time  to  time  that  she  may  wash  her  face, 
her  arms  and  shoulders,  and  rub  her  skin.  For  this  pur- 
pose water  is  either  brought  to  her  in  a  wooden  basin  by 
her  husband,  or  she  is  carried  by  two  women  back  to  the 
water's  edge,  and  there  she  washes  standing  on  a  mat. 
After  sunset  she  is  allowed  to  retire  to  her  father's  house 
to  rest,  but  the  next  day  she  has  to  return  to  the  platform 
and  there  resume  her  seated  immobility,  and  observe  all 
her  taboos  as  on  the  first  day.  This  is  repeated  for  from 
three  to  five  days,  according  to  the  rank  and  importance 
of  the  woman  and  of  her  husband.  Nowadays,  with  the 
relaxation  of  all  customs,  one  day  is  often  considered  long 

When  the  ceremonial  vigil  on  the  platform  is  over,  the 



woman  may  return  for  a  few  more  months  to  her  hus- 
band's house  J  or  she  may  go  to  the  house  of  her  father 
or  of  her  maternal  uncle.  To  one  of  these  she  must  in 
any  case  repair  for  her  confinement.  She  dresses  in  the 
saykeulo  (pregnancy  mantle)  until  it  is  worn  out.  As  a 
rule  it  lasts  for  about  two  months,  so  that  it  has  to  be 
discarded  some  two  months  before  confinement. 

There  is  more  than  one  important  feature  associated 
with  the  first  pregnancy  ritual.  As  always  in  the  Tro- 
briands,  ceremonial  services  rendered  by  a  certain  class  of 
relative  must  be  repaid  by  the  actual,  that  is  maternal, 
kinsmen  of  the  person  served.  In  this  case  the  work,  the 
magic,  and  the  ritual  are  performed  by  the  female  rela- 
tives of  the  father.  In  the  distribution  of  food  {sagali)^ 
which  immediately  follows  the  ceremony,  it  is  the  moth- 
er's brother,  the  brother,  and  the  other  maternal  kinsmen 
of  the  young  woman,  who  do  the  distributing.  If  she  is 
a  woman  of  small  importance,  this  distribution  takes  place 
before  her  father's  house.  But  if  she,  or  her  father  or 
husband,  be  a  person  of  high  rank,  it  is  carried  out  on  the 
central  place  of  the  village.  The  procedure  is  the  same 
as  in  the  mortuary  and  other  ceremonial  distributions.'' 
The  food  is  divided  into  heaps  and  every  heap  is  allotted 
to  a  single  person,  his  or  her  name  being  called  out  in  a 
loud  voice.  After  the  first  pregnancy  rites,  each  one  of 
the  tabula  who  has  been  working  at  the  robe  and  taking 
part  in  the  ceremony  receives  a  heap  of  food.  Besides 
this,  the  givers  of  the  sagali  (distribution)  usually  select 

1  See  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  pp.  182-3,  and  references  in 
Index,  s.v.  sagali,  and  below,  ch.  xi,  sec.  2. 



some  specially  large  and  fine  yams,  or  a  bunch  of  bananas 
or  areca  nut,  and  carry  the  gift  to  the  house  of  the  pa- 
ternal aunt,  and  perhaps  to  those  of  one  or  two  other 
relatives  as  well.  Such  additional  payment  is  called 

A  minor  but  very  interesting  ceremonial  is  associated 
with  this  distribution.  The  father  of  the  pregnant  woman 
— ^who  has  nothing  to  do  with  the  sagali — chooses  some 
specially  good  food  and  carries  it,  on  his  own  account,  to 
certain  women  who  are  known  to  possess  a  form  of  black 
magic  of  which  pregnant  women  stand  in  great  fear. 
"Black"  this  magic  is,  literally  as  well  as  metaphorically, 
for  by  addressing  the  mwanita  (black  millepede),  the  sor- 
ceress is  able  to  make  a  pregnant  woman's  skin  black,  as 
black  as  the  worm  itself.  The  father's  gift,  which  is 
brought  to  the  house  door  and  belongs  to  the  class  called 
katubwadela  hwala  (house-closing-gift),  is  intended  to 
forestall  and  arrest  any  evil  intentions  which  the  sorceress 
might  harbour.  As  one  of  my  informants  put  it:  "That 
their  anger  might  come  to  an  end,  that  they  might  not 
perform  the  evil  magic  that  blackens  the  skin  of  that 
woman,  that  pregnant  one." 

This  brings  us  back  to  the  question  of  the  idea  under- 
lying the  first  pregnancy  ceremony,  and  of  its  aims  and 
purpose.  If  the  average  Trobriander  is  asked  the  reason 
or  cause,  u^uluy  of  a  custom,  the  usual  ready  answer  is  one 
of  the  stereotyped  phrases,  tokunabogwo  ayguri  ("of  old 
it  has  been  ordained"),  Laha^  lay  ma  ("it  came  from 
Laba'i,"  the  mythological  centre  of  the  district),  tom- 
wayay  tomwayay  ivagise  ("the  ancients  have  arranged  it"). 
In  other  words,  the  custom  has  in  their  eyes  a  traditional 



sanction  3  and  every  respectable  person  among  savages,  as 
well  as  among  ourselves,  has,  of  course,  to  do  a  thing 
because  it  is  done  and  because  it  always  has  been  done. 
But  I  obtained  a  certain  number  of  special  reasons  for 
this  particular  usage  besides  the  general  one.  Some  main- 
tain that  the  ceremony  makes  for  a  quick  and  easy  birth  j 
"for,"  as  they  say,  "the  playing  about  in  the  water  loosens 
the  child  in  the  womb."  Some  say  that  it  assures  the 
health  of  the  mother  and  of  the  baby  3  and  yet  others  that 
it  is  necessary  for  the  proper  formation  of  the  foetus. 
One  woman  gave  as  the  reason  for  the  ceremony,  that  the 
spirit  child  was  said  to  enter  the  woman  while  she  was  in 
the  ritual  bath,  but  her  statement  was  not  confirmed  by 
anyone  else,  and  I  consider  it  spurious. 

But  the  prevalent  opinion  of  the  natives  is  that  the 
ceremony  is  to  whiten  the  skin  of  the  woman.  This 
opinion  wp:6  expressed  to  me  by  my  best  informants  among 
the  mer.,  as  well  as  by  several  women  with  whom  I  dis- 
cussed the  matter.  It  is  also  in  harmony  with  the  text  of 
the  magical  formula  and  with  the  ritual  actions,  as  well 
as  with  the  nature  of  the  central  symbol,  the  pregnancy 
mantle.  The  use  of  the  saykeulo,  as  my  informants 
pointed  out,  is  to  keep  the  sun  off  the  skin.  The  woman 
has  to  wear  it  after  the  ceremonial  bathing,  and  when 
she  has  had  to  discard  it  she  should  keep  indoors  as  much 
as  possible  until  the  confinement.  This  idea  of  whiteness 
as  a  thing  to  be  desired  is  also  expressed  in  the  main 
ceremony  of  first  bathing,  and  in  the  subsequent  ritual 
washings,  which  the  pregnant  woman  continues  until  her 
confinement  and  after  it. 

It  is  impossible  to  get  beyond  the  idea  that  whiteness 



as  such  is  desirable.  One  thing  is  clear,  however.  Al- 
though whiteness  of  the  skin  is  usually  regarded  as  a 
personal  attraction,  in  this  case  the  woman  is  not  made 
white  in  order  to  be  erotically  seductive.  When  I  asked 
why  a  pregnant  woman  must  try  to  make  her  skin  white, 
I  received  the  answer:  "I£  a  woman  does  not  wash  and 
anoint,  and  if  her  skin  is  black,  people  will  say  this  woman 
is  very  bad,  she  has  men  in  her  mind,  she  does  not  look 
after  her  confinement."  Again  they  would  say,  explain- 
ing the  motive  for  the  whole  ceremony:  "This  is  done 
to  prepare  her  skin  for  the  confinement  washings  j  and  to 
make  her  desire  to  be  white.  Thus  we  see  when  her  skin 
is  white  that  she  does  not  think  about  adultery."  From 
another  informant  I  received  the  statement:  "The  say- 
keulo  covers  her  up  completely:  breasts,  legs,  backj  only 
her  face  you  see.  It  makes  her  skin  white,  it  shows  she 
does  not  have  connection  with  men."  Thus  the  woman 
is  made  white  and  beautiful  by  all  this  magic.  Yet  she 
must  hide  her  charms,  she  must  not  attract  other  men, 
and  she  has  to  keep  more  stringently  faithful  than  at  any 
other  time  of  her  wedded  life.  Nay,  as  will  be  seen,  she 
must  even  abstain  from  lawful  intercourse  with  her  hus- 


In  the  foregoing  section  the  ceremony  of  first  preg- 
nancy was  described.  Now  we  proceed  to  the  customs  of 
pregnancy  and  confinement  in  general.  The  ritual  bath- 
ing, the  ceremonial  investment  with  the  pregnancy  man- 



tie,  the  magic  o£  whiteness  and  of  beauty,  are  only  per- 
formed before  the  first  child  is  born.  But  making  the 
skin  as  white  as  possible  by  ordinary  means,  including  the 
use  of  the  mantle,  is  a  feature  of  every  pregnancy.  On 
subsequent  occasions  the  mantle  is  made  by  the  woman 
herself  or  it  may  be  given  by  a  tabula  and  repaid  by  her, 
but  as  a  private  transaction  only. 

Some  five  months  after  conception,  that  is  at  the  time 
of  the  ritual  bathing  in  a  first  pregnancy,  the  prospective 
mother  begins  to  observe  certain  food  restrictions.  She 
must  abstain  from  what  the  natives  call  kavaylu^a  (deli- 
cacies which  consist  mainly  of  fruit) .  The  banana,  the 
mango,  the  malay  apple,  the  South  Sea  almond,  the  paw- 
paw, the  bread-fruit,  and  the  natu  fruit  are  forbidden  to 
her.  This  taboo  has  reference  to  the  future  health  of  the 
child.  "If  she  eat  kavaylu^ay  the  child  will  have  a  big 
belly  5  it  will  be  full  of  excrement  and  will  soon  die." 
The  diet  of  a  pregnant  woman  is  henceforth  reduced  to 
the  staple  vegetable  food  {kaulo)j  that  is  yams,  taro,  na- 
tive peas,  sweet  potatoes,  and  other  produce  of  the  gar- 
den. She  is  also  allowed  to  eat  meat  and  fish,  but  she 
must  abstain  from  certain  kinds  of  the  latter.  The  fish 
which  she  is  forbidden  to  eat  are  such  species  as  live  in 
the  submarine  holes  of  the  coral.  The  natives  say  that 
just  as  it  is  difficult  to  haul  these  fish  out  of  their  hiding 
places,  so  the  baby  would  not  easily  be  brought  forth. 
Fish  with  sharp,  pointed  and  poisonous  fins,  which  are  on 
that  account  dangerous  to  the  fishermen,  are  taboo  to  the 
pregnant  woman.  If  she  were  to  eat  any  of  them  the 
child  would  be  ill-tempered  and  constantly  wailing.    As 



pregnancy  progresses  and  the  woman  becomes  big,  sexual 
intercourse  must  be  abandoned,  for,  as  the  natives  say, 
"the  penis  would  kill  the  child."  This  taboo  is  rigorously 

Otherwise  the  pregnant  woman  leads  a  normal  life 
almost  up  to  the  time  of  her  confinement.  She  works  in 
the  garden,  fetches  water  and  firewood,  and  cooks  the 
food  for  the  household.  She  has  but  to  shield  herself 
from  the  sun  by  wearing  the  saykeulo  (pregnancy  man- 
tle), wash  frequently,  and  anoint  herself  with  coconut 
oil.  Only  towards  the  close  of  pregnancy  when  the  first 
saykeulo  is  worn  out  and  discarded,  must  she  keep  out  of 
the  sun  and  therefore  abandon  some  of  the  heavier  work. 

As  in  a  first  pregnancy,  so  in  all  the  subsequent  ones, 
the  woman,  about  the  fifth  month,  has  to  take  up  her 
abode  in  her  father's  house  and  she  may  remain  there  or 
she  may  return  again  to  her  husband's  house  until  some 
time  before  the  confinement,  when  she  invariably  goes  to 
the  house  of  her  parents  or  maternal  uncle.  This  re- 
moval to  the  father's  or  mother's  brother's  house  is  a  rule 
observed  in  every  childbirth,  the  woman  leaving  her  hus- 
band's house  in  about  the  seventh  or  eighth  month  of  her 

This  custom  is  associated  with  the  strong  fear  of  the 
dangers  which  surround  a  woman  in  childbed,  and  which 
are  conceived  to  be  due  to  a  form  of  evil  magic,  which  is 
called  vatula  bam  (the  chilling  or  paralysing  of  the 
uterus).  And  again,  in  the  face  of  this  great  danger,  we 
see  once  more  the  interesting  recrystallization  of  kinship 
ties,  the  shifting  of  responsibility  and  solidarity.     Here, 



again,  only  the  actual  maternal  kinsmen  and  kinswomen 
are,  in  the  eyes  of  custom  and  tribal  law,  regarded  as  re- 
liable. The  woman  has  to  go  to  her  father's  house,  for 
that  is  also  her  mother's  home,  and  her  mother  is  the 
proper  person  to  look  after  her  and  the  baby.  The 
mother  also  is  concerned  in  warding  off  danger  with  the 
help  of  her  male  relatives,  who  forgather  at  the  house 
of  the  birth  and  see  to  it  that  a  proper  watch  {yausa)  is 
kept  over  the  lying-in.  Such  a  watch,  kept  by  men  armed 
with  spears  who  sit  all  the  night  long  over  fires  and  guard 
the  house  and  its  every  approach,  is  considered  the  main 
defence  and  precaution  against  sorcerers  who,  surrounded 
by  nocturnal  birds,  are  supposed  to  prowl  about,  attempt- 
ing to  cast  the  valuta  bam  magic.  Primarily,  it  is  the  duty 
of  the  husband  to  carry  out  the  yausa^  but  in  this  he  is 
never  trusted  alone,  and  the  male  relatives  of  the  preg- 
nant woman  not  only  assist  but  also  control  him.  The  in- 
teresting thing  about  this  form  of  sorcery  is  that  it  does  not 
only  exist  in  the  fear  and  superstition  of  the  natives,  but 
that  it  is  actually  attempted  and  carried  out  by  male  sor- 
cerers. The  formula  is  recited,  the  house  approached,  and 
the  evil  charm  cast  according  to  the  prescribed  rites.^  I 
have  even  obtained  the  spells  of  this  magic  and  the  cura- 
tive counter  spells,  but  as  this  question  essentially  belongs 
to  the  subject  of  sorcery,  I  shall  reserve  it  for  a  future 

When  her  time  approaches,  the  parental  house  is  made 

^  Cf.  the  difference  between  the  purely  imaginary  witchcrart  of  the 
flying  women  (yoyo'va)  and  the  sorcery  really  carried  out  by  the  male 
wizards  {bivaga'u),  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  ch.  ii,  sec.  vii,  and 
ch.  X,  sec.  i ;  and  ch.  ii  of  this  book 



ready.  The  father  and  all  the  male  inmates  have  to 
leave,  while  some  female  kinswomen  come  in  to  assist  the 
mother.  When  the  first  pains  are  felt,  the  woman  is 
made  to  squat  on  the  raised  bedstead  with  a  small  fire 
burning  under  it.  This  is  done  "to  make  her  blood 
liquid,"  "to  make  the  blood  flow."  At  the  critical  mo- 
ment the  woman  in  labour  and  her  attendants  may  repair 
to  the  bush,  where  confinement  is  sometimes  allowed  to 
take  place,  but  more  usually  they  remain  in  the  house. 

About  the  actual  travail,  I  have  been  able  to  obtain 
only  the  following  information.  The  woman  in  labour  is 
seated  on  a  mat  placed  on  the  ground,  with  her  legs  apart 
and  her  knees  raised.  Leaning  back,  with  her  hands  on 
the  ground  behind  her,  she  rests  her  weight  on  her  arms. 
At  her  back  stands  her  sister  or  some  other  close  maternal 
relative,  who  bears  heavily  on  the  labouring  woman's 
shoulders,  pressing  down  and  even  thumping  her  vigor- 
ously. As  the  natives  say:  "This  woman  presses  on  the 
parturient  one  so  that  the  baby  may  fall  out  quickly." 
The  mother  of  the  woman  in  travail  waits  to  receive  the 
baby.  Sometimes  she  catches  hold  of  her  daughter's 
knees.  A  mat  is  placed  in  position,  and  on  this  the  newly 
born  is  received.  I  was  told  that  the  baby  is  allowed  to 
come  to  birth  by  means  of  natural  efforts  only,  and  that 
it  is  never  pulled  out  or  manipulated.  "The  child  will 
fall  on  to  the  mat,  there  it  lies,  then  we  take  it.  We  do 
not  take  hold  of  it  before."  The  parturient  woman  tries 
to  help  on  the  process  by  stopping  her  breath  and  so 
bearing  down  on  the  abdomen. 

If  the  labour  is  very  hard  they  ascribe  the  fact,  of 



course,  to  the  evil  magic  o£  the  valuta  ham  and  they  sum- 
mon someone  who  knows  the  vlvlsa  (curative  formula)  to 
counteract  this  evil.  This  is  recited  over  the  aromatic 
leaves  of  the  kwebila  plant,  and  the  body  of  the  woman 
is  rubbed  with  them.  Or  else  the  charmed  leaves  are 
placed  on  her  head  and  then  thumped  with  the  fist.  Only 
in  the  most  difficult  cases  and  when  the  vivisa  has  proved 
ineffective  would  the  child  be  manipulated,  and  even  then, 
from  what  I  gathered,  very  timidly  and  incompetently. 
If  the  afterbirth  does  not  come  out  in  due  course,  a  stone 
is  tied  to  the  mother's  end  of  the  navel  string.  The 
vivisa  (curative  formula)  is  then  recited  over  it,  and  the 
woman  made  tc\  stand  up.  If  that  does  not  help,  they 
are  at  their  wit's  end,  and  the  woman  is  doomed,  as  they 
do  not  know  how  to  extract  the  afterbirth  by  manipula- 
tion. The  natives  were  very  much  astonished  when  they 
saw  how  Dr.  Bellamy,  who  for  several  years  had  been 
medical  officer  in  the  Trobriands,  used  to  remove  the 

Some  three  days  after  the  birth,  one  of  the  tabula 
(paternal  kinswomen)  of  the  mother  of  the  new-born 
child  heats  her  fingers  at  a  fire  and  kneads  off  the  re- 
maining piece  of  the  navel  string  near  to  the  baby's  ab- 
domen. This  and  the  afterbirth  are  buried  in  the  ground 
within  the  garden  enclosure.  Underlying  the  custom  is 
a  vague  idea  that  it  will  make  the  new-born  a  good  gar- 
dener, that  it  will  "keep  his  mind  in  the  garden."  After 
the  removal  of  the  umbilical  cord,  the  child  may,  though 

1  This  information  I  received  independently  from  Dr.  Bellamy,  at  that 
time  Assistant  Resident  Magistrate  and  Medical  Officer  of  the  district^ 
and  from  the  natives. 



it  need  not,  be  carried  out  of  the  house.  The  mother  has 
to  remain  for  a  month  or  so  confined  within  the  parental 
hut.  Soon  after  the  delivery,  a  string  is  twisted  by  the 
tabula  and  tied  round  the  mother's  chest.  Some  magic 
is  associated  with  this,  but  unfortunately  I  never  learnt 
what  it  was  nor  ascertained  the  meaning  of  the  ceremony. 


Mother  and  baby  spend  the  greater  part  of  their  time 
during  the  first  month  on  one  of  the  raised  bedsteads  with 
a  small  fire  underneath.  This  is  a  matter  of  hygiene,  as 
the  natives  consider  such  baking  and  smoking  to  be  very 
beneficial  for  the  health,  and  a  sort  of  prophylactic 
against  black  magic.  No  men  are  allowed  into  the  house, 
for,  since  the  woman  baked  over  the  fire  is  usually  naked, 
no  male  should  enter  3  but  there  are  no  supernatural  sanc- 
tions for  the  custom,  nor  is  any  serious  harm  done  if  the 
taboo  should  be  broken.  After  a  month  or  so  a  miagic 
is  performed  called  vageda  kayfwakova;  flowers  of  the 
white  lily  are  burned  with  some  dry  wood,  while  the 
charm  is  spoken,  and  the  woman  is  covered  with  the 
smoke  of  the  smouldering  faggot.  This  is  done  on  two 
days  in  succession,  and  is  supposed  to  make  her  skin  still 
whiter.  I  did  not  obtain  the  formula  of  this  magic.  On 
the  third  day,  the  tabula  ritually  wash  the  young  mother, 
and  rub  her  skin  with  leaves  charmed  by  the  beauty  spell 
used  in  the  corresponding  rite  during  the  first  pregnancy 



The  woman  then  goes  out  with  the  baby  and  makes  the 
round  of  the  village,  receiving  from  friends  and  her 
father's  relatives  small  gifts  of  food  called  va^otu.  After 
she  has  finished  the  round,  there  is  a  mimic  driving  home 
{ibutusi)  of  her  by  the  tabula  (her  maternal  aunt  and 
other  relatives  of  the  same  ci^ss\  and  here  she  has  to  re- 
main for  another  month  in  seclusion. 

During  this  time  husband  and  wife  may  only  speak 
together  through  the  door  and  glance  at  each  other  now 
and  then.  On  no  account  must  they  eat  together  or  even 
partake  of  the  same  food.  Sexual  intercourse  between 
them  is  strictly  taboo  for  a  much  longer  time,  at  the  least 
until  the  child  can  walk.  But  the  stricter  rule  is  to  abstain 
from  intercourse  until  it  is  weaned — that  is,  some  two 
years  after  its  birth — and  this  stricter  rule  is  said  always 
to  be  observed  by  men  in  polygamous  households.  The 
husband,  even  one  who  has  several  wives,  must  abstain 
from  all  conjugal  or  extraconjugal  intercourse  until  the 
baby  and  its  mother  go  out  for  the  first  time.  A  breach 
of  any  of  these  rules  is  said  to  bring  about  the  death  of 
the  child.  In  the  case  of  illegitimate  children  also,  if 
the  mother  copulates  too  soon,  the  child  is  sure  to  die. 

After  the  second  seclusion,  mother  and  child  return  to 
their  own  household,  and  the  mother  resumes  her  normal 
life,  although  much  of  her  time  is  taken  up  with  the 
baby.  She  wears  a  plain  fibre  skirt,  two  of  which  have 
been  made  for  her  by  her  tabula  if  this  has  been  her  first 
pregnancy.  She  also  now  wears  the  long  mantle,  saykeuloy 
the  second  of  the  two  made  for  her  by  the  tabula  before 
the  first  pregnancy  (pi.  51).    If  it  is  a  second  pregnancy, 


or  if  the  baby  is  illegitimate,  the  skirt  and  the  mantles 
are  made  by  herself  or  privately  by  a  relative,  and  are 
as  a  rule  much  shorter  (see  pi.  90).  Also  a  young  mother 
frequently  wears  a  sort  of  maternity  cap,  called  togebiy 
which  is  often  made  by  twisting  a  small  grass  fibre  petti- 
coat into  a  sort  of  turban/  Into  her  armlets  she  must 
insert  a  bundle  of  aromatic  herbs  {yana). 

The  most  important  of  the  cares  bestowed  on  the  child 
is,  of  course,  concerned  with  its  feeding.  Besides  the 
mother's  breast  which,  as  I  was  told,  but  very  seldom 
fails,  the  child  is  given  other  food  almost  from  the  first 
days.  Taro,  well  boiled,  is  chewed  by  the  mother  or  by 
some  of  her  relatives,  and  the  mash,  called  mememay  is 
given  to  the  infant.  The  natives  think  that  the  child 
would  be  too  weak  if  it  were  restricted  to  its  mother's 
milk.  Chewed  yams  and  fish  are  not  given  till  much 
later,  when  the  child  is  almost  a  year  old.  The  child's 
head  is  smeared  with  coconut  oil  mixed  with  charcoal  "to 
make  the  head  strong"  as  the  natives  say.  One  measure 
of  cleanliness  is  observed  day  after  day  from  the  first 
hours  of  the  baby's  life:  it  is  bathed  regularly  in  warm 
water,  with  which  the  mother  also  washes  her  own  skin. 
A  specially  deep  wooden  platter,  called  kaykwaywosiy  is 
used  for  this  purpose.  The  water  is  warmed  by  throwing 
stones  heated  in  the  ashes  into  the  platter.  Thus  a  hot 
and  somewhat  alkaline  water  is  prepared,  and  this  daily 
washing,  followed  by  an  anointing  with  coconut  oil,  is 
said  to  keep  the  skin  of  the  mother  and  child  white.    The 

1  Togebi  is  the  general  name  for  plaited  discs  or  folded  petticoats  worn 
on  the  head  as  a  support  for  baskets  and  other  loads  carried  by  women 
(cf.  ch.  i,  sec.  3,  and  pi.  6). 



weaning  of  the  child  takes  place  long  after  birth,  usually 
some  two  years  or,  as  the  natives  put  it,  "when  it  is  able 
to  say  clearly  bakam  ba/mom  (I  want  to  eat,  I  want  to 

During  the  weaning  the  child  is  separated  from  the 
mother,  and  sleeps  with  its  father  or  with  its  paternal 
grandmother.  When  it  cries  at  night  a  dry  breast  is  given 
to  it,  or  some  coconut  milk.  If  it  is  fretful  and  loses 
condition,  it  is  taken  to  some  distant  village  where  it  has 
relatives,  or  from  inland  villages  to  the  seaside,  so  that  it 
may  regain  its  normal  health  and  good  spirits. 

We  have  now  brought  the  child  up  to  the  time  when 
he  will  shortly  join  his  playmates  in  the  small  children's 
world  of  the  village.  In  a  few  years  he  will  begin  his 
own  amorous  life.  Thus  we  have  closed  the  cycle  which 
runs  through  infantile  love-making,  youthful  intrigues, 
settled  liaison,  marriage,  and  its  results  in  the  production 
and  rearing  of  children.  This  cycle  I  have  described  in 
its  main  outline,  giving  special  consideration  to  the  socio- 
logical aspects  as  seen  in  prenuptial  intercourse,  marriage, 
kinship  ideas,  and  the  interplay  of  mother-right  and  pa- 
ternal influence.  In  the  following  chapters  it  will  be 
necessary  to  describe  certain  side-issues  and  psychological 
aspects,  concerned  more  particularly  with  the  erotic  life 
before  marriage. 




We  must  now  return  to  certain  aspects  of  love-making, 
which  had  to  be  left  out  or  barely  touched  upon  in  relat- 
ing the  life  history  of  the  native.  The  facts  described  in 
chapter  iii  have  shown  us  that,  subject  to  certain  restric- 
tions, everyone  has  a  great  deal  of  freedom  and  many 
opportunities  for  sexual  experience.  Not  only  need  no 
one  live  with  impulses  unsatisfied,  but  there  is  also  a  wide 
range  of  choice  and  opportunity. 

But  wide  as  are  the  opportunities  of  ordinary  love- 
making  for  a  Trobriander,  they  do  not  exhaust  all  the 
possibilities  of  erotic  life.  In  addition,  seasonal  changes 
in  village  life  and  festive  gatherings  stimulate  sexual  in- 
terest and  provide  for  its  satisfaction.  Such  occasions,  as 
a  rule,  lead  to  intrigues  beyond  the  limits  of  the  village 
community  j  they  loosen  old  ties  and  establish  new  ac- 
quaintanceships j  they  bring  about  short  passionate  affairs, 
which  sometimes  develop  into  more  stable  attachments. 

Traditional  usage  allows,  and  even  encourages,  such 
extensions  of  ordinary  erotic  life.  And  yet  we  shall  see 
that,  though  countenanced  by  custom  and  public  opinion, 
they  are  felt  to  be  an  excess,  to  be  something  anomalous. 
Usually  they  produce  a  reaction,  not  in  the  community 
as  a  whole,  but  in  the  individuals  offended  by  them.^ 

1  For  a  discussion  of  such  licensed  yet  resented  usages,  see  Crime  and 
Custom,  part  ii. 


Some  excesses — those,  that  is,  which  really  deserve  the 
name  of  orgiastic  licence — are  limited  to  one  district 
alone,  and  are  viewed  by  the  other  natives  as  quaint  local 
anomalies  j  while  those  who  practise  them  are  proud,  and 
at  the  same  time  ashamed  of  them.  Even  the  common 
and  outwardly  decorous  relaxations  are  considered  as 
escapades  and  adventures,  always  to  be  planned  in  the 
penumbra  of  secrecy,  and  often  resented,  if  not  avenged, 
by  the  regular  partners. 

It  has  seemed  best  to  divide  the  description  of  native 
sexual  life  into  two  parts,  and  to  treat  these  separately. 
The  normal  maturing  of  the  sexual  impulse  and  its  issue 
in  matrimony  had  to  be  dealt  with  first.  The  facts  which 
illustrate  how  the  impulse  is  given  a  wider  range,  how 
it  strays  beyond  the  local  group  of  everyday  acquaint- 
ances and  leads  athwart  home-made  intrigues,  will  be 
given  in  this  and  the  following  chapters. 

This  division  corresponds  to  the  native  point  of  view, 
and  makes  it  possible  to  present  the  facts  in  a  far  truer 
perspective  than  if  they  were  lumped  together.  But  the 
two  parts  are  closely  connected,  and  the  way  in  which 
they  fit  into  each  other  will  be  evident  in  the  account 
which  follows. 

I  shall  begin  with  a  description  of  those  occasions  which 
regularly,  in  the  course  of  each  year,  stimulate  erotic  in- 
terest, and  at  the  same  time  provide  wider  opportunities 
for  its  satisfaction.  There  are  certain  seasonal  and  pe- 
riodical games  5  there  are  arrangements  for  picnics,  excur- 
sions, and  bathing  parties  j  there  are  customary  festivities 
associated  with  the  economic  cycle,  and  finally  there  is  the 
annual  season  of  festivities. 




Throughout  the  year,  there  is  a  periodic  increase  in 
play  and  pleasure -seeking  at  full  moon.  When  the  two 
elements  so  desirable  in  the  tropics,  soft  light  and  bracing 
freshness  are  combined,  the  natives  fully  respond:  they 
stay  up  longer  to  talk,  or  to  walk  to  other  villages,  or  to 
undertake  such  enterprises  as  can  be  carried  out  by  moon- 
light. Celebrations  connected  with  travel,  fishing,  or 
harvesting,  as  well  as  all  games  and  festivals,  are  held  at 
the  full  moon.  In  the  ordinary  course  of  tribal  life,  as 
the  moon  waxes,  the  children,  who  always  play  in  the 
evening,  sit  up  later  and  band  together  to  amuse  them- 
selves on  the  central  place  of  the  village.  Soon  the  young 
boys  and  girls  join  them,  and,  as  the  moon  grows  fuller, 
the  maturer  youth,  male  and  female,  is  drawn  into  the 
circle  of  players.  Gradually  the  smaller  children  are 
squeezed  outj  and  the  round  games  and  competitive 
sports  are  carried  on  by  youths  and  grown-ups.  On  spe- 
cially fine  and  cool  nights  of  full  moon,  I  have  seen  the 
whole  population  of  a  large  village  gathered  on  the  cen- 
tral place,  the  active  members  taking  part  in  the  games, 
with  the  old  people  as  spectators. 

The  younger  men  and  women,  however,  are  the  main 
players,  and  the  games  are  associated  with  sex  in  more 
than  one  way.  The  close  bodily  contact,  the  influence 
of  moonlight  and  shadow,  the  intoxication  of  rhythmic 
movement,  the  mirth  and  frivolity  of  play  and  ditty — 



all  tend  to  relax  constraint,  and  give  opportunity  for  an 
exchange  of  declarations  and  for  the  arrangement  of 
trysts.  In  this  book  we  are  chiefly  concerned  with  the 
erotic  element  in  games,  but  in  order  not  to  lose  the  right 
perspective,  it  must  be  realized  that  this  is  but  one  aspect 
of  them.  Children's  play  and  adult  games  often  contain 
no  such  element,  and  in  none  of  them  is  it  the  only  in- 
terest, or  even  the  chief  inducement  to  participation. 
Love  of  athletics,  the  need  for  exercise,  competition,  dis- 
play of  skill  and  daring,  aesthetic  satisfaction  and  a  sense 
of  fun,  are  each  quite  as  important  as  the  sexual  element. 
The  games  which  are  played  on  moonlit  evenings  on 
the  central  place  of  the  village  are  perhaps  the  most  im- 
portant of  all.  They  usually  begin  with  a  round  game 
of  "ring-a-ring-a-roses"  type,  called  Kasaysuya  (pi.  52).^ 
Boys  and  girls  join  hands  and  sing,  while  they  move  first 
slowly  and  then,  with  the  quickening  rhythm  of  the  chant, 
spin  round  faster  and  faster,  until,  tired  out  and  giddy, 
they  stop,  rest,  and  begin  again  in  the  reverse  direction. 
As  the  game  progresses,  and  one  ditty  follows  another, 
the  excitement  grows.  The  first  ditty  is  one  which  begins 
with  the  words,  ^^kasaysuya^  saysuya^^  referring  to  a  bush 
after  which  the  game  is  named.  Each  time  they  start  on 
a  new  round,  a  new  ditty  is  chanted.  The  rhythm  in  song 
and  step  is  at  first  slow,  grows  rapidly  quicker,  and  ends 
in  a  swift  staccato  repetition  of  the  last  syllables  as  the 

1  This  and  the  following  illustrations  (pis.  52-6)  were  taken  whilst  the 
children  and  youths  were  demonstrating  the  details  of  the  games.  The 
actual  performances  take  place  always  after  nightfall,  and  could  not  be 
photographed.  The  difference  consists  mainly  in  the  presence  of  spec- 
tators, who  are  not  to  be  seen  in  these  illustrations. 



players  whirl  round  and  round.    Towards  the  end  of  the 
game  usually  the  rhymes  become  rather  ribald. 

These  are  examples   of  such  kasaysuya  ditties  with 
sexual  allusions: 


Taytulaviya,  viya,  taytulaheulay  heula  (repeated) 

furious  taytu,  stout  taytu 

Kavakayviyakuy  kwisi  tau^a^u 

Enormous  penis  (of)  men 

Isisuse  wa  bwayma. 

They  sit         in    food-house. 

Toyatalaga     fofu 

Fornicator      excrement. 

Free  Translation 

O,  the  rapidly  growing  taytu  yams,  O,  the  stout  taytu 

Men  with  enormous  penises  sit  on  the  food-house  plat- 

(i.e.  keep  away  from  women) — they  are  pederasts! 


Imayase  la  kaykivi 

They  bring  his  soliciting  message  (of) 

tokaka^u  (repeated). 


Ifayki  nakaka^u. 

He  [she]  declines  widow. 



Ikaraboywa  kwila  tokaka^u. 

It  remains  idle         penis  (of)         widower. 

Free  Translation 

They  brought  her  the  invitation  to  lie  with  him  from 

the  widower — 
But  the  widow  refused. 
So  the  widower's  penis  had  to  remain  idle! 

This  ditty,  I  was  told,  would  be  sung  if  a  widower 
were  present,  especially  if  he  were  too  enterprising  in  his 
amorous  offers,  or  if  he  misdirected  them.  It  would  also 
be  sung  if  a  woman  wanted  to  stimulate  his  interest  and 
encourage  him. 


Yokwamiga    tau^a^u  fniyawimi  sayduwaku. 

You  indeed    men       your  pubic  leaves  duwaku  piece. 

Saydukufiy    kufi. 

Short  piece,  short. 

Galaga         takakaya         kukwpi. 

No  indeed  we  fornicate  short  (things). 

Free  Translation 

O  men  you  use  dtdfuoaku  strips  for  your  pubic  leaves: 

They  are  short  strips,  far  too  short! 

Nothing  so  short  will  induce  us  to  fornicate  with  you! 


Yokwamiga  vivilaga  midahemi    siginanabuy 

You  indeed  women  indeed  your  skirts  (a  flimsy  leaf), 



SiginafatUy  fatu, 

(Flimsy  leaf)  narrow,     narrow. 

Galagay  takakaya  fatu. 

No  indeed     we  fornicate     narrow  (holes). 

Free  Translation 

O  women,  you  use  the  siginanabu  leaves  for  your  skirts: 

They  are  narrow  leaves. 

Nothing  so  narrow  will  induce  us  to  penetrate  you. 

The  two  chants  are  counterparts  of  one  another,  and 
show  the  typical  kind  of  joke  made  about  the  dress  of 
the  other  sex.  My  informant  stated  emphatically  that 
they  mean  simply:  ^^Gala  takayta  kaykukufi  kwila — gala 
takayta  kwayfatu  wila,^  "We  do  not  copulate  (with  one 
having)  a  short  penis,  we  do  not  copulate  (with  one  hav- 
ing) a  narrow  cunnus." 


Yokwamiga  giyovila  kaynufisi  nunimiga. 

You  indeed  women  of  rank  small        your  breasts  indeed. 

Kaykawala  mitasiga  gweguyaga. 

Impressionable        their  eyes  men  of  rank  indeed. 

Kamilogi  habawa^ 

Your  copulating  support     earthen  mound, 


your  lime-pots 

hix)ey  kwey  kwe, 
(make)  kwe,  kwe,  kwe. 



Free  Translation 

O  women  of  rank,  your  breasts  are  small  indeed, 
But  the  eyes  of  men  of  rank  are  lecherous. 
You  copulate  on  the  ground,  and  while  you  do  that,  your 
lime-pots  produce  a  rattling  sound  kuoey  kwey  kwe. 

Social  games  always  begin  with  this  rhythmic  running 
in  a  circle.  Other  figure  games  follow,  in  several  of 
which  only  two  people  participate.  Thus,  a  boy  will  put 
his  feet  on  one  of  the  thighs  of  another  boy  or  man,  who, 
standing  up  and  holding  him  by  the  hands,  swings  in  a 
circle  (pi.  53)5  or  two  boys  sit  facing  each  other  with  the 
soles  of  their  feet  together,  get  a  good  grip  on  a  stick, 
held  between  them,  and  try  to  lift  each  other  ofiF  the 
ground.  This  is  a  form  of  "cock-fighting."  Most  of  the 
games,  however,  are  played  by  many  people  j  sometimes 
they  are  very  conventionalized  and  remote  imitations  of 
serious  pursuits,  and  sometimes  they  represent  the  be- 
haviour of  animals.  Thus  in  "Dog's  Tail,"  two  rows  of 
boys  face  each  other,  and  move  to  left  and  right  5  in 
^^Rats"  a  row  of  boys  squat  and  hop  one  after  another 
(pi.  54);  in  "Cooking  Pot,"  boys  in  the  same  position 
move  slowly  from  one  foot  to  the  other  5  in  "Fishing  of 
Kuboya,"  boys  advance  in  single  file,  the  last  one  being 
caught  by  two  who  stand  on  either  side  with  raised  arms 
and  let  the  others  pass  (pi.  SS)*  In  this  last  we  find  the 
elements  of  our  "Oranges  and  Lemons."  More  elabo- 
rate figures  are  enacted  in  "Stealing  of  the  Bananas," 
*^The  Parrot,"  and  "The  Fire."    All  these  games  with- 



out  exception  are  accompanied  by  rhymes  which  are  sung 
sometimes  at  the  beginning,  sometimes  right  through  the 
game,  and  sometimes,  as  in  "Bananas,"  at  appropriate 
moments  in  the  action.  In  none  of  these  games  ^s  there 
any  direct  erotic  element,  but  they  all  provide  oppojfyu- 
nities  for  contact  and  for  the  handling  of  one  another,  io^- 
teasing  and  an  exchange  of  jokes.  In  contest  games,  such 
as  "Rats,"  "Dog's  Tail,"  and  "Fishing,"  only  boys  take 
part  as  a  rule.  In  the  more  elaborate  games,  such  as 
"Fire,"  "Bananas,"  and  "Parrot,"  both  sexes  participate. 


This,  also,  is  the  invariable  rule  in  the  following  games, 
which  admit  of  even  more  intimate  physical  contact.  The 
sina  game  forms  part  of  the  bathing  ritual  in  the  preg- 
nancy ceremony,  and  has  been  described  in  the  previous 
chapter.  In  the  village,  boys  and  girls  play  it  together. 
There  is  also  a  game  in  which  the  players  stand  in  a  long 
chain  holding  hands,  and  then  walk,  reciting  a  chant, 
round  the  person  who  stands  at  one  end.  This  end  re- 
mains immovable  and  the  person  at  the  other  end  leads 
the  chain  round  in  gradually  narrowing  circles  until  the 
whole  group  is  pressed  together  into  a  tight  knot.  The 
fun  of  the  game  consists  in  squeezing  the  knot  very 
tightly.  It  is  then  unrolled  gradually  by  reversing  the 
motion  faster  and  faster,  till  at  the  end  the  others  run 
round  and  round  the  fixed  end  until  the  chain  breaks. 
Another  game  begins  by  two  of  the  players  sitting  back 



to  back  5  two  more  sit  between  the  legs  o£  each,  serving  as 
a  support,  and  then  two  more  between  the  legs  of  the 
second  pair,  and  so  onj  and  so  seated  they  sing  and  begin 
to  push  backwards  j  the  row  which  pushes  the  other  one 
out  of  position  wins.  In  both  these  games,  close  prox- 
imity lends  itself  to  the  preliminaries  of  love-making. 

The  favourite  and  most  important  game  is  a  tug-of- 
war,  bi^u  (literally  pulling).  A  long  stout  creeper  is  cut 
and  an  equal  number  of  players,  each  standing  behind 
another,  take,  hold  of  either  half  of  the  creeper  5  usually 
the  game  starts  somewhere  in  the  middle  of  the  village 
place  {haku).  When  all  are  in  position,  one  side  recites 
half  the  ditty,  the  other  responds  with  the  second  half, 
and  as  the  recital  ends  they  begin  to  tug.  Sometimes  it 
is  men  against  women  j  sometimes  by  accident  or  prefer- 
ence, the  sides  are  mixed.  Never  is  there  any  division 
according  to  clan,  though  kinship  taboos  between  men 
and  women  are  always  observed,  so  that  brother  and 
sister,  for  instance,  never  stand  near  each  other.  Each 
side  strives  to  "get  the  other  going,"  and  the  real  fun 
begins  when  one  side  proves  itself  the  stronger  and  drags 
the  other.  A  great  deal  of  roughness  is  displayed  in  this 
game,  also  a  considerable  amount  of  disregard  for  any 
damage  done  to  houses,  young  trees,  or  domestic  objects 
lying  about.  When  it  is  played  in  the  form  of  a  kayasUy 
a  competitive  arrangement  of  which  we  shall  speak  pres- 
ently, houses,  yam  stores,  and  young  trees  are  said  to  be 
destroyed  and  people  are  sometimes  injured. 

The  main  interest  in  these  competitive  games  of 
strength  and  skill  lies  in  the  game  itself  3  but  many  of 



the  players  make  use  of  them  for  erotic  purposes.  Not 
only  does  physical  proximity  allow  of  certain  intimacies 
not  otherwise  possible,  but,  as  we  shall  see  later,  it  is  in- 
dispensable for  the  exercise  of  some  forms  of  love-magic. 

Late  at  night,  usually  as  a  climax  to  the  other  games, 
the  natives  play  "Hide  and  Seek"  (supeponi).  When 
this  game  is  played  on  a  large  scale,  the  sides  start  from 
the  central  place,  but  hide  outside  in  the  weyka,  the  vil- 
lage grove  (pi.  sQ'  As  a  rule  the  sexes  divide,  women 
and  men  hiding  alternately.  When  one  player  finds 
another  he  has  to  chant  a  ditty  in  a  loud  voice.  Those 
who  are  not  found  for  a  long  time,  return  by  themselves, 
each  singing  a  special  phrase,  as  he  or  she  arrives  at  the 
meeting-place.  As  with  the  tug-of-war,  this  game  is 
extremely  popular,  and  the  sexual  motive  is  without 
doubt  partly  responsible  for  this.  Couples  will  arrange 
to  look  for  each  other  or  to  meet  at  some  particular  place, 
and  it  is  easy  to  see  how  well  this  game  is  designed  for 
trysts,  though  probably  such  are  mainly  of  a  preliminary 
nature.  It  is  accordingly  not  considered  proper  for  mar- 
ried women  to  join  in  "Hide  and  Seek." 

On  fine  days  the  boys  and  girls  will  often  arrange  an 
excursion  to  some  favourite  spot.  Usually  they  take 
food  and  cook  it  on  a  beach,  or  among  the  coastal  rocks, 
or  at  some  specially  attractive  waterhole.  Sometimes  they 
combine  the  excursion  with  fruit-gathering,  fishing,  or 
bird-trapping.  At  such  times  lovers  will  walk  apart  for 
greater  intimacy.  In  the  season  of  sweet  flowering  plants 
and  trees  they  gather  blossoms,  adorn  each  other  with 



garlands,  and  even  with  paint,  and  thus  aesthetically  cele- 
brate the  occasion. 

On  hot  days  in  the  season  of  calm  weather,  boys  and 
girls  repair  to  the  beach,  to  waterholes,  and  to  creeks, 
where  they  engage  in  bathing  games.  Each  game  has  its 
stereotyped  action  and  its  special  name  5  and  most  of  them 
are  accompanied  by  a  chant.  The  players  swim  and  dive 
in  groups  j  or  stand  in  a  row,  chanting  a  ditty,  and,  as  it 
ends,  fall  backwards  into  the  water  and  swim  away  on 
their  backs.  Again,  they  stand  in  a  ring,  facing  inwards, 
sing  a  few  words,  and  then  splash  one  another.  There 
is  a  game  which  commemorates  an  old  legend  about  the 
change  of  a  man  into  a  dugong.  They  also  know  the  use 
of  the  surfboard  and  amuse  themselves  with  it  on  the 
open  sea-beach. 

It  is  diiEcult  to  say  exactly  how  far  an  erotic  interest 
enters  into  these  games.  As  in  all  the  other  games,  so 
far  described,  the  observer  can  see  nothing  in  the  slightest 
degree  indecorous,  but  from  conversations  with  natives 
and  from  their  personal  confidences,  it  is  clear  that  amo- 
rous intrigues  frequently  start  on  such  occasions.  The 
splashing  often  passes  into  wrestling,  and  water  games 
present  the  human  body  in  a  fresh  and  stimulating  light. 



The  games  on  the  central  village  place  are  played,  for 
the  most  part,  between  May  and  September,  the  cool 
season  of  the  trade  winds.    There  are  no  bathing  games 



in  these  months,  as  a  strong  wind  blows  during  the  mid- 
day hours.  Water  games  are  most  popular  in  the  hot 
seasons  between  the  dry  and  the  rainy  weather,  from 
February  to  May,  and  during  October  and  November. 
These  latter  months — the  spring  of  the  Southern  Hemi- 
sphere, and,  in  the  Trobriands,  the  calm  season  following 
the  dry  months  of  the  trade  winds — are  also  the  time 
of  harvest  celebrations. 

Harvest  time  is  one  of  joy  and  social  activity,  of  con- 
stant visits  between  the  communities,  of  competition,  dis- 
play, and  mutual  admiration.  Each  village  must  send 
out  its  parties  of  boys  and  girls,  with  gifts  of  food.  They 
wear  a  special  dress,  put  aromatic  leaves  into  their  arm- 
lets and  flowers  into  their  hair,  and  a  few  lines  of  paint 
upon  their  faces.  The  girls  put  on  a  new  fibre  petticoat 
(pi.  6i),  the  boys  a  fresh  pubic  leaf.  At  times  the  cen- 
tral place  is  crowded  with  such  harvest  carriers  (pi.  57). 
Such  festive  visits  are  an  occasion  for  making  new  ac- 
quaintances and  for  a  display  of  personal  beauty,  and  thus 
lead  to  intrigues  between  members  of  different  commu- 
nities.^ All  the  harvest  customs  favour  erotic  pursuits — 
visits  to  other  villages  and  the  added  freedom,  the  gay 
mood  and  the  care  taken  in  personal  adornment.  After 
sunset,  on  the  pretext  of  visiting  the  gardens,  parties  of 
boys  and  girls  amuse  themselves  in  other  villages,  return- 
ing home  late  at  night.  The  fervour  of  these  activities 
increases  towards  the  full  moon. 

1  For  the  sociological  and  economic  systems  which  underlie  the  distri- 
bution of  the  crops  at  harvest  and  the  gifts  between  villages,  see  my 
article  in  The  Economic  Journal,  March,  1921,  and  ch.  vi  of  Argonauts 
of  the  Western  Pacific. 



The  harvest  period  is  directly  followed  by  the  mlla- 
mday  the  annual  feast  associated  with  the  return  of  an- 
cestral spirits  to  the  village/  The  inaugural  ceremony  is 
held  at  a  certain  full  moon,  and  is  followed  by  a  month 
of  dancing  which  reaches  its  climax  at  the  next  full  moon. 
On  the  last  few  days  before  full  moon,  certain  solemn 
celebrations  are  held,  dances  in  full  dress  are  performed, 
and  offerings  made  to  the  spirits  of  the  departed.  The 
whole  interest  of  the  community  is  concentrated  on  these 
final  celebrations.  Men  and  women  are  intent  on  pro- 
ducing an  effect  of  lavishness,  on  doing  honour  to  their 
ancestral  spirits  and  thus  to  themselves,  and  in  general  on 
achieving  that  renown  {hutura)  so  dear  to  the  heart  of 
the  Trobriander.  The  dances  during  this  time  are  never 
directly  associated  with  sex,  but  they  serve  to  establish  the 
fame  of  good  dancers  and  thus  to  add  to  their  personal 
:harm.  On  the  night  after  the  full  moon,  the  spirits  are 
ceremonially  driven  away  from  the  villages,  and  all  danc- 
ing stops. 

A  period  of  quieter  festivity  follows  the  milamala^  that 
of  the  karibom.  After  the  evening  meal,  the  village 
drummers,  standing  in  the  centre  of  the  village  place 
{baku)j  beat  out  a  slow  rhythm.  Soon  children,  old  men 
and  women,  youths  and  maidens,  assemble  in  the  central 
place  and  begin  to  walk  round  it.  There  is  no  special  step, 
no  complicated  rhythm  j  only  a  slow,  regular,  monoto- 
nous walk.    Such  karibom  walking  takes  place  also  in  the 

1  For  a  detailed  description  of  beliefs  and  practices  associated  with  the 
mtlamala  see  my  articles,  "Baloma,  the  Spirits  of  the  Dead  in  the  Tro- 
briand  Islands,"  in  Journal  R.  Anthrop.  Inst.,  1916,  and  "Lunar  and  Sea- 
sonal Calendar,"  ibid.,  1927.     Cf.  also  ch.  xi,  sec.  2,  of  this  book. 



earlier  stages  of  the  milamala  month,  to  be  replaced  to- 
wards its  end  by  regular  dancing. 

The  slow  rhythmic  walk  of  the  kanhom  is  to  a  great 
extent  a  social  promenade.  In  place  of  the  single  file  of 
the  ordinary  dance,  two  or  three  people  walk  abreast  j 
conversation  is  allowed  and  free  choice  in  the  matter  of 
partners.  An  old  man  or  woman  will  be  seen  leading  a 
grandchild  by  the  hand  or  carrying  it.  Women,  some- 
times with  babies  at  the  breast,  gossip  together,  and  lovers 
walk  arm-in-arm.  Since  the  karibom  usually  falls  on 
dark,  moonless  evenings,  it  lends  itself  to  erotic  ap- 
proaches even  more  than  the  ordinary  games,  and  con- 
siderably more  than  the  regular  dancing.  There  are  a 
number  of  modes  of  erotic  attack  which  can  be  practised 
during  the  karibom  by  a  boy  walking  immediately  behind 
the  object  of  his  fancy.  From  this  position  he  can  clasp 
her  breasts,  a  proceeding  which,  as  the  natives  say,  is  use- 
ful in  stimulating  her  erotic  interest,  and  is  also  a  condi- 
tion of  certain  forms  of  love-magic.  Or  else  he  may  hold 
certain  aromatic  herbs  under  her  nose,  the  smell  of  which, 
by  its  own  virtue  alone  or  by  this  enhanced  with  magic, 
exercises  a  powerful  erotogenous  effect.  Or,  if  he  be 
enterprising  and  his  desire  strong,  he  may,  parting  the 
fringe  of  her  grass  skirt,  insert  a  finger  in  her  vulva. 

During  the  whole  period  of  this  festival,  but  more  espe- 
cially during  the  first  part,  the  milamala^  visits  between 
communities  take  place.  Sometimes  these  visits  are  offi- 
cial and  ceremonial,  as  when  one  community  is  invited  by 
another  to  admire  a  newly  acquired  dance,  or  to  sell  one 
of  their  own  to  it.    A  special  term  laga  is  applied  to  the 



sale  of  dances  and  one  or  two  other  privileges  and  titles/ 
For  such  an  occasion,  the  whole  community,  with  its  head- 
man and  best  dancers,  moves  in  a  body  to  the  other  vil- 
lage and  there  ceremonially  performs  the  dance,  instruct- 
ing the  purchasers  in  its  intricacies  (pi.  58).  The  visit 
is  always  returned.  Large  gifts  (ya^otu)  are  associated 
with  such  visits,  and  have,  as  always,  to  be  returned  in  an 
equivalent  form.  But  sometimes  groups  of  youths  and 
maidens,  boys  and  girls,  will  go  from  one  village  to  an- 
other for  their  private  pleasure,  and  join  in  the  local 
karlhom  (slow  rhythmic  walking).  In  this  way  new  ac- 
quaintances are  made  and  more  or  less  temporary  intrigues 
begun,  distance  and  strangeness  adding  spice  to  the  ad- 

Thus,  in  normal  years,  the  festive  mood  of  the  mila- 
fnala  spreads  itself  through  the  dull  round  of  the  karlhom. 
But  if  the  food  be  plentiful  and  the  festive  mood  exu- 
berant j  if  there  are  special  reasons  for  celebration  or  some 
need  to  comfort  the  spirits  of  the  people,  as  after  a  de- 
feat in  war  or  an  unsuccessful  kula  expedition,  then  the 
period  of  dancing  is  deliberately  prolonged.  Such  an  ex- 
tension is  called  uslgolay  "together  for  a  dance"  {usl  from 
•KJo^i  =  dance,  gola^=  to  accumulate  or  forgather).  It 
may  last  one,  two,  or  even  three  months.  Like  the  mila- 
malay  this  extension  has  its  inaugural  ceremony,  its  inter- 
mediate feasts,  and  its  climax  in  an  orgy  of  feasting  and 
dancing  which  may  last  for  several  days.  People  from 
friendly  villages  are  invited  3  they  arrive  with  presents 
and  return  home  laden  with  counter-gifts.     All  that  has 

1  Cf.  Argonauts,  p.  186. 



been  previously  said  with  reference  to  the  sexual  oppor- 
tunities offered  by  the  main  festival  period  obviously  ap- 
plies also  to  the  usigola. 


The  usigola  (extension  of  dancing  period)  is  only  one 
type  of  the  festivities  into  which  the  fnilmnala  may  be 
extended.  The  generic  name  for  such  periods  of  com- 
petitive  obligatory  dancing,  amusement  or  other  activity 
is  kayasa.  A  kayasa  is  always  organized  upon  a  definite 
pattern,  with  a  ceremonial  according  to  its  kindj  and  it 
has,  in  some  aspects,  the  binding  force  of  law.  A  kayasa 
need  not  be  specially  a  period  of  amusement.  There  are 
kayasa  of  economic  activities,  such  as  gardening,  fishing 
or  the  production  of  shell  ornaments.  But  although  the 
usigola  belongs  to  this  type  of  communal  activity,  it  is 
never  called  kayasa;  nor  is  this  term  applied  to  competi- 
tive ceremonial  and  obligatory  expeditions  of  the  kula 
type.  Such  special  kula  expeditions  are  always  called 

In  certain  cases  the  activity  round  which  a  kayasa  cen- 
tres is  an  exclusive  privilege  of  the  community  or  clan  5 
but  whatever  its  kind,  initiative  must  always  be  taken  by 
the  headman,  who  acts  as  toUkayasa  (master  of  the 
kayasa).     It  is  he  who,  with  the  assistance  of  his  clans- 

^  For  a  description  of  the  wvalaku,  cf.  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pa- 
cific, passim.  The  place  of  the  kayasa  in  economic  life  has  been  indicated 
in  my  article  on  the  "Primitive  Economics  of  the  Trobriand  Islanders,"' 
Economic  Journal,  March,  1921.  Its  legal  aspect  has  been  referred  to  in 
Crime  and  Custom  in  Savage  Society,  p.  61, 



men  and  kinsmen,  has  to  provide  the  wherewithal  for  the 
big  feast  or,  rather,  the  ceremonial  distribution  of  food 
(sagali)  which  inaugurates  the  proceedings.  Those  who 
partake  of  this — and  practically  all  the  community  have 
to  do  so — are  under  a  formal  obligation  to  exert  them- 
selves for  the  whole  period,  so  that  the  kayasa  may  be  a 
success  5  and,  at  times,  when  their  zeal  in  work  or  amuse- 
ment shows  signs  of  flagging,  a  new  feast  is  given  to  re- 
vive enthusiasm.  There  is  a  reason  behind  this  fiction  of 
a  legal  obligation  towards  the  leader  on  account  of  food 
and  gifts  received:  for  the  glory  of  a  successful  kayasa 
devolves  principally  upon  the  toUkayasa  (the  leader  or 
owner  of  the  kayasa).  But,  as  we  know  already,  there  is 
also  scope  for  the  ambition  of  any  participant,  and  the 
element  of  emulation  is  very  strong  in  all  kayasa.  Each 
of  them  includes  some  form  of  competitive  display  or 
contest,  and  there  is  always  a  pronouncement  of  public 
opinion  on  the  result.  So  that  the  most  successful  or 
energetic  participants  also  receive  an  individual  share  of 

Among  the  kayasa  of  pure  amusement,  we  may  men- 
tion first  the  tug-of-war  game,  already  described  in  this 
section.  When  played  as  a  kayasa  it  is  inaugurated  cere- 
monially by  a  big  distribution  of  food  (sagali^  see  ch.  xi, 
sec.  2).  After  that  it  has  to  be  continued  night  after  night 
in  full  force,  with  utter  disregard  of  personal  inclination, 
comfort,  or  even  property,  which,  as  mentioned  already, 
is  often  damaged.  The  community  divides  regularly  into 
two  parts  j  especially  good  tuggers  acquire  renown,  and  the 
stories  of  extraordinary  feats,  of  special  havoc  wrought, 



or  o£  long  and  arduous  deadlocks,  fill  the  whole  district 
with  the  fame  {huturd)  of  leader  and  participants.  There 
is  a  sporting  kayasa,  specially  popular  in  the  southern 
part  of  the  district,  in  which  miniature  canoes  are  sailed 
competitively.  Another  type  of  kayasa^  called  kamrorUy 
is  performed  exclusively  by  women,  and  consists  of  com- 
munal singing.  This  is  regarded  as  a  counterpart  of  the 
ceremonial  dancing,  in  which,  with  very  rare  exceptions, 
only  men  take  part.  In  the  kamroru  kayasay  women,  in 
full  dress,  seat  themselves  on  new  mats  spread  on  the 
central  place  and,  swaying  rhythmically,  sing  certain  songs 
in  unison.  The  men  look  on  from  the  platforms  of  the 
storehouses  and  admire  the  most  beautiful  figures  and  the 
finest  voices. 

There  is  a  more  direct  erotic  appeal  in  the  festivities 
connected  with  the  sweet-smelling  butta.  The  flowering 
season  of  the  hutla  tree  coincides  with  the  milamala  period 
(annual  feast  of  the  returning  spirits),  and  the  flower 
kayasa  is  therefore  only  held  in  those  years  when  owing 
to  mourning  there  can  be  no  dances  in  the  village.  Other- 
wise the  season  is  always  devoted  to  dancing.  The  flowers 
are  collected  in  the  jungle,  made  into  wreaths  and  gar- 
lands, and  exchanged  with  a  blowing  of  conch-shells.  As 
the  natives  put  it:  "We  make  kula  (ceremonial  exchange) 
with  hutla  wreaths."  In  fact,  whoever  initiates  an  ex- 
change has  to  say,  as  he  offers  the  wreath:  um^maygu^a 
(thy  valuable  present).  A  small  return  gift  of  food  or 
betel-nut  is  then  made,  with  the  words:  katn  kwayfolu 
(thy  preliminary  return).  Finally  a  counterpart  of  the 
first  present  is  returned  to  the  donor  with  the  words:  um 



yotile  (thy  return  gift).  Thus  the  exact  terminology  of 
the  kula  is  followed  in  these  transactions/  A  festive 
character  is  given  to  the  whole  proceedings  by  the 
groups  of  people  walking  about  and  singing  3  by  the  gaily 
dressed  boys  and  girls  taking  part  in  the  ceremonial  far 
into  the  night  5  and  by  the  sound  of  the  conch-shells, 
blown  as  each  gift  is  presented. 

The  competitive  element  in  the  hutia  festival  lies  in  the 
quality  and  quantity  of  the  presents  received  and, given, 
and,  as  in  all  forms  of  such  exchange,  to  give  or  to  re- 
ceive a  magnificent  gift  contributes  to  the  glory  of  either 
side.  This  kayasa  provides  opportunities  for  courtship 
and  for  the  expression  of  mutual  admiration  3  a  would-be 
lover  can  display  his  appreciation  of  a  girl  in  the  magni- 
tude of  his  gifts,  and  at  the  same  time  flatter  her  vanity 
and  satisfy  her  ambition.  Thus  beauty,  erotic  interest^ 
ambition,  and  vanity  are  the  chief  interests  in  this  kayasa, 

A  more  pronounced  part  is  played  by  vanity  in  the  fes- 
tivals of  hair-dressing  {wayfulu)  and  of  ornamental  shell 
discs  {kaloma).  The  wayfulu  is  confined  to  the  islands 
of  Kitava  and  Vakuta.  After  a  long  period  during  which 
no  deaths  have  occurred  so  that  the  people  have  been  able 
to  grow  long  hair,  a  display  of  this  highly  valued  natural 
beauty  is  held  (see  ch.  x,  sec.  3).  Only  men  take  part  in 
this  kayasa.  They  adorn  themselves,  spread  mats  on  the 
central  place,  and,  teasing  out  their  hair  with  the  long- 
pronged  Melanesian  comb,  they  sing  and  display  its 
charm.  The  women  admire  and  pronounce  judgment  on 
the  quality  and  beauty  of  the  hair.    The  kayasa  of  shell 

1  Cf.  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  pp.  352-7. 



ornaments  is  held  in  the  villages  of  Sinaketa  and  Vakuta. 
When  a  large  number  of  these  discs  have  been  produced, 
the  men  adorn  themselves,  and  day  after  day,  evening 
after  evening,  parade  the  central  place. 

To  a  European  observer  the  proceedings  of  a  kayasor 
appear  unspeakably  monotonous  and  pointless.  The  repe- 
tition for  weeks  on  end  of  exactly  the  same  procedure 
prevents  even  an  ethnographer  from  regular  attendance 
at  any.  kayasa.  But,  for  the  native,  apart  from  any  feel- 
ing of  duty,  the  whole  affair  has  an  intense  interest  and 
considerable  attraction.  In  this,  sex  plays  a  considerable 
part.  For  the  desire  to  show  off,  to  produce  a  personal 
effect,  to  achieve  butura  (renown)  in  its  most  valued 
form,  that  of  irresistible  charm,  contains  a  pronounced 
erotic  element. 


There  is,  or,  at  least,  used  to  be  till  the  missionaries 
came,  one  kayasa  which  centred  round  erotic  dalliance 
satisfied  in  public  and  that  very  thoroughly.  This  kayasa 
was  never  practised  in  the  northern  and  central  parts  of 
the  district,  but  only  by  a  few  villages  in  the  extreme 
south  end  of  the  island  of  Vakuta.  It  was  called  kamaliy 
a  dialectic  variation  of  the  word  kimaliy  the  erotic  scratch- 
ing, which  symbolizes  the  erotic  approach,  as  does  kissing 
with  us.  It  is  a  general  rule  in  all  districts  of  the  Tro- 
briands  that,  when  a  boy  and  girl  are  strongly  attracted  to 
each  other,  and  especially  before  their  passion  is  satisfied, 
the  girl  is  allowed  to  inflict  considerable  bodily  pain  on 



her  lover  by  scratching,  beating,  thrashing,  or  even 
wounding  with  a  sharp  instrument.  However  severely 
he  is  handled,  such  treatment  is  accepted  in  good  part  by 
the  boy,  as  a  sign  of  love  and  a  symptom  of  temperament 
in  his  sweetheart.  On  one  occasion,  during  the  harvest 
festivities,  I  had  to  dress  the  wound  of  a  boy  who  came 
to  me  with  a  deep  cut  in  the  muscles  right  across  the  back 
under  his  shoulder-blades.  The  girl  who  had  made  it 
hovered  near  in  deep  concern.  I  was  told  that  she  struck 
too  hard  without  realizing  it.  The  boy  did  not  appear  to 
mind,  though  he  was  evidently  in  pain,  and  (so  I  heard) 
he  reaped  his  reward  that  same  night.  This  case  was 
typical.  The  kimali  or  kamali  is  a  form  of,  feminine 
wooing,  a  compliment  and  an  invitation,  which  in  the 
kamali  kayasa  was  systematized  and  carried  out  on  a  large 
scale.  Boys  in  gala  dress  would  walk  round  the  central 
place  singing:  girls  would  come  up  to  them  and  teasing 
jokes  and  repartee  would  be  exchanged,  very  much  as  in 
other  kayasa.  But  things  were  allowed  to  go  very  much 
further.  Women,  who  were  expected  on  such  occasions 
to  be  much  more  forward  than  usual,  would  pass  from 
teasing  to  scratching,  and  attack  the  boys  with  mussel- 
shells  and  bamboo-knives,  or  with  a  piece  of  obsidian  or 
a  small  sharp  axe.  A  boy  was  allowed  to  run  away,  and 
would  do  so  if  his  assailant  were  not  attractive  to  him. 
But  it  was  a  sign  of  manliness  and  a  proof  of  success  to 
be  properly  slashed  about.  Also,  when  a  boy  was  attracted 
by  a  girl,  he  would,  naturally,  not  run  away,  but  take  her 
attack  as  an  invitation.  The  ambition  of  a  woman  was 
successively  to  slash  as  many  men  as  she  could  3  the  am- 



bition  of  a  man  to  carry  away  as  many  cuts  as  he  could 
stand,  and  to  reap  the  reward  in  each  case. 

I  have  never  assisted  at  such  a  kayasa.  As  far  as  I 
could  find  out,  through  the  interference  of  the  white  mis- 
sionaries and  officials,  not  one  had  occurred  within 
twenty  years  of  my  arrival.  So  that  data  collected 
about  this  kayasa  are  what  might  be  called  "hearsay 
documents."  The  account  of  scratching  and  cutting,  how- 
ever, tallies  so  well  with  facts  observed  by  myself  that  I 
have  not  the  slightest  reason  to  doubt  its  accuracy.  What 
follows  is  given  with  due  reservation,  though  it  agrees 
with  the  reports  about  some  other  Melanesian  and  Poly- 
nesian natives.  I  was  told  by  several  independent  in- 
formants, both  from  the  districts  concerned  and  from  the 
north,  that  the  relaxation  of  all  control  was  complete  dur- 
ing that  kayasa.  Sexual  acts  would  be  carried  out  in  public 
on  the  central  place  j  married  people  would  participate  in 
the  orgy,  man  or  wife  behaving  without  restraint,  even 
though  within  hail  of  each  other.  This  licence  would  be 
carried  so  far  that  copulation  would  take  place  within  sight 
of  the  luleta  (sister,  man  speaking 3  brother,  woman 
speaking):  the  person  with  regard  to  whom  the  strictest 
sexual  taboos  are  always  observed  (see  chs.  xiii  and  xiv). 
The  trustworthiness  of  these  statements  is  confirmed  by 
the  fact  that  I  was  told  several  times,  when  discussing 
other  forms  of  kayasa  in  the  north,  that  all  of  them  were 
carried  out  in  a  much  more  orgiastic  manner  in  the  south. 
Thus  at  a  tug-of-war  kayasa  in  the  south,  men  and  women 
would  always  be  on  opposite  sides.  The  winning  side 
would  ceremonially  deride  the  vanquished  with  the  typical 



ululating  scream  {katugogovd)^  and  then  assail  their 
prostrate  opponents,  and  the  sexual  act  would  be  carried 
out  in  public.  On  one  occasion  when  I  discussed  this 
matter  with  a  mixed  crowd  from  the  north  and  the  south, 
both  sides  categorically  confirmed  the  correctness  of  this 

In  this  context  two  occasional  forms  of  customary  inter- 
course may  be  mentioned.  During  the  mortuary  wake 
{yawaU\  which  takes  place  immediately  after  a  man's 
death,  people  from  all  the  surrounding  communities  con- 
gregate and  take  part  in  the  songs  and  ceremonies  which 
last  for  the  best  part  of  the  night.  When,  far  into  the 
night,  the  visitors  return  home,  it  is  the  custom  for  some 
of  the  girls  to  remain  behind  to  sleep  with  certain  boys 
of  the  bereaved  village.  Their  regular  lovers  must  not, 
and  do  not,  interfere. 

Another  type  of  sexual  latitude  is  associated  with  hos- 
pitality given  to  strangers  j  but  this  obligation  was  more 
strictly  observed  in  former  times  when,  owing  to  the 
greater  fear  and  mistrust  of  strangers,  the  visitors  were 
fewer  and  better  chosen.  I  am  told  that  it  was  then  con- 
sidered the  duty  of  a  girl  from  the  village  to  act  as  the 
stranger's  partner  for  the  night.  Hospitality,  curiosity, 
and  the  charm  of  novelty  would  make  this  duty  perhaps 
not  very  arduous. 

The  only  overseas  strangers,  who,  in  olden  days,  used 
to  voyage  regularly,  were  those  who  came  to  the  Tro- 
briands  on  the  kula  trading  expeditions.  When  the  cere- 
monial stages  of  the  visit  were  over  and  some  exchange 
of  gifts  had  taken  place,  the  visitors  would  enter  the  vil- 



lage  and  hold  friendly  converse  with  the  inhabitants.  It 
was  also  the  duty  of  the  hosts  to  provide  the  guests  with 
food  3  but  this  could  never  be  given  in  the  village,  since 
it  was  against  all  etiquette  to  eat  within  a  strange  com- 
munity. Therefore  it  was  taken  to  the  beach  where  the 
canoes  were  moored.  Thither  the  village  beauties  would 
carry  it  on  platters,  and  wait  till  these  were  emptied. 
Friendly  talk  would  ripen  into  intimacy,  presents  would 
be  offered  by  the  strangers  to  the  girls,  and  their  accept- 
ance was  a  sign  that  the  girl  was  willing.  It  was  consid- 
ered right,  and  sanctioned  by  custom,  that  the  local  girls 
should  sleep  with  the  visitors  j  and  for  this,  also,  accepted 
lovers  had  not  the  right  to  punish  or  reprimand  them. 

This  holds  good  especially  about  the  northern  half  of 
the  island,  visited  by  men  from  Kitava  and  the  other 
Marshall  Bennett  Islands.  In  the  southern  villages,  vis- 
ited by  the  foreign-speaking  Dobuans  and  Amphlettans, 
the  strangers  also  sometimes  slept  with  the  local  girls. 
But  this  was  not  so  usual,  as  the  Dobuans  never  recipro- 
cated or  allowed  their  women  folk  to  grant  any  favours 
to  visiting  Trobrianders. 

The  customs  and  arrangements  so  far  considered  are 
partly  seasonal,  partly  dependent  on  special  circumstances. 
The  games  described  at  the  beginning  of  this  chapter, 
which  take  place  by  moonlight  on  the  central  place,  are 
mostly  played  during  the  trade-wind  season,  from  May 
to  September.  The  harvest  activities  and  festivals  begin 
in  June  and  last  into  August.  The  milamda  begins  in 
September  and  ends  in  October.  Its  date  is  fixed  by  the 
appearance  of  the  falolo  worm,  which  comes  up  regularly 



at  a  certain  full  moon.  The  name  for  this  worm  is  also 
fmlamala^  and  it  is  sometimes  mystically  connected  with 
the  arrival  of  the  spirits.  The  kayasa  is  sometimes  held 
during  the  milamala  season,  but  usually  it  occurs  imme- 
diately afterwards  as  an  extension  of  the  festival.  Dur- 
ing the  full  rainy  season  which  follows,  January,  Febru- 
ary, and  March,  the  telling  of  fairy  tales  and  gardening 
are  the  main  social  occupations.  We  shall  have  to  touch 
upon  these  presently.  Bathing  games  take  place  in  April 
and  May,  October  and  November,  between  the  dry  and 
wet  seasons. 

What  is  the  relation  of  these  customs  to  the  normal 
course  of  courtship  described  in  chapter  iii?  They  give 
opportunities  for  strangers  to  meet  and  for  erotic  interest 
to  pass  beyond  the  confines  of  the  village.  This  may  lead 
merely  to  romantic  escapades  which  enrich  experience  and 
guide  maturer  choice  within  the  community.  But  some- 
times such  intrigues  end  in  marriage,  and  then  the  woman 
always  follows  her  husband  since,  as  we  know,  marriage 
is  patrilocal. 




The  periodical  rise  and  fall  of  erotic  life  in  the  Tro- 
briands  might  be  represented  by  a  curve  determined  by 
tribal  festivities,  ceremonial  customs,  and  economic  ac- 
tivities. These,  in  turn,  follow  the  moon  and  seasons  in 
their  courses.  The  curve  rises  regularly  at  full  moon  and 
its  highest  point  occurs  at  and  immediately  after  harvest. 



The  drops  in  the  curve  are  associated  with  absorbing 
economic  pursuits  and  sports,  with  gardening  and  overseas 
expeditions.  Certain  of  the  festivals  favour  an  overflow 
of  erotic  interest  beyond  the  boundaries  of  a  village  com- 

A  liaison  between  two  people  who  live  at  a  distance 
from  one  another,  is  not  too  easy.  Many  special  customs 
of  assignation,  visit,  and  tryst,  which  the  natives  compre- 
hensively call  ulatlley  tend  to  assist  separated  lovers. 
Such  visiting  when  done  by  men  is  called  ulatiley  which 
means  literally  "male  youth,"  and  describes  the  group 
of  adolescent  boys  and  young  men  who  often  act  in  a  body 
in  work  or  play  (pi.  59).  By  an  extension  of  meaning, 
the  noun  ulatile  is  used  to  describe  "youthful  exuberance," 
or  even,  more  specifically,  "sexual  activity."  We  have 
met  with  this  term  already  (ch.  iii,  sec.  2)  in  the  com- 
pound td^ulaule  (young  man).  Pronounced  with  a  cer- 
tain intonation,  this  term  conveys  the  meaning  of  "gay 
dog,"  or  even  "fornicator."  Applied  to  a  woman,  it 
assumes  the  form  naka^ulatiley  and  is  used  only  with  the 
derogatory  meaning,  "wanton  woman,"  or  more  precisely, 
"a  woman  who  desires  more  than  she  is  desired."  In  its 
original  etymological  implication,  it  probably  means  "for- 
ward like  a  man"  (see  ch.  xiii,  sec.  4).  Used  as  a  verb, 
the  root  ulatile  is  applied  primarily  to  males,  and  it  sig- 
nifies "to  go  on  a  love-making  expedition,"  "to  have 
success  with  women,"  "to  indulge  in  excessive  sexual  inter- 
course." It  can  be  used  by  extension  about  women,  except 
when  it  is  applied  to  an  expedition  outside  the  village,  in 
which  case  it  refers  only  to  men. 



There  are  two  forms  of  ulatile  expedition  to  which  the 
word  applies  in  a  somewhat  technical  sense.  The  first  is 
a  matter  of  necessity:  a  lover  must  visit  his  sweetheart 
in  her  own  village.  If,  on  one  of  the  several  occasions 
described  in  the  previous  section,  two  people  from  dif- 
ferent communities  have  become  strongly  attracted  by 
each  other,  they  will  arrange  a  meeting.  As  a  rule  the 
boy  has  some  intim.ate  friend  in  the  girl's  village,  and  this 
makes  things  easier,  since  this  friend  will  help  him.  It 
is  a  matter  of  etiquette  for  the  lover  to  adorn  himself 
for  the  tryst,  and  this  compels  him  to  observe  a  certain 
measure  of  secrecy.  He  will  not  walk  on  the  main  road, 
but  surreptitiously  steal  through  the  bush.  "Like  a  sor- 
cerer he  will  go  5  stop  and  listen  j  go  sideways  and  push 
through  the  jungle  j  no  one  must  see  him."  Thus  one  of 
my  informants  likened  such  ulatile  to  the  clandestine 
expeditions  of  sorcerers  who,  on  their  nocturnal  expedi- 
tions, must  not  be  seen  by  anybody. 

As  he  approaches  the  village  he  has  to  be  specially 
careful.  In  his  own  village  such  a  passing  intrigue,  if 
discovered,  would  only  arouse  the  jealousy  of  the  accred- 
ited lover  and  start  a  minor  quarrel.  But  an  erotic 
poacher  caught  in  another  community  might  be  seriously 
mishandled,  not  only  by  the  jealous  lover,  but  by  all  the 
other  boys.  He  might  also  bring  upon  his  sweetheart  the 
reproaches  of  her  regular  lover.  However,  the  main 
reason  for  secrecy  is  that  it  is  enjoined  by  custom  as  a  rule 
of  the  game.  The  two  usually  arrange  to  meet  in  the 
jungle  near  the  girl's  village.  Sometimes  the  girl  guides 
her  lover  to  the  chosen  place  by  lighting  a  firej  some- 



times  they  agree  to  imitate  the  call  of  a  birdj  sometimes 
she  marks  the  way  into  the  chosen  spot  of  the  jungle  by 
tearing  the  leaves  in  a  pattern  or  by  placing  leaves  on 
the  road. 

If  the  passion  stands  the  test  of  time  and  difficulty  and 
ripens  into  affection,  steps  are  taken  to  make  the  liaison 
permanent  and  official.  The  boy  may  join  his  friend  in 
the  village,  and  remain  there  under  some  pretext  as  a 
temporary  citizen.  Or  else  the  girl  will  be  accepted  in 
his  village  and  come  to  live  there.  When  taking  a  village 
census,  I  often  came  across  a  girl  who  was  staying  in  the 
community  because  she  was  living  with  some  boy  belong- 
ing to  it.  The  two  would  sleep  together  in  a  hukumatula 
(unmarried  boys'  and  girls'  house)  in  the  same  way  as 
an  ordinary  affianced  couple  (see  ch.  iii,  sec.  4),  and  if 
the  liaison  went  well,  it  ended  naturally  in  marriage. 

Another  technical  use  of  the  word  ulatile  applies  to 
an  entirely  different  type  of  love-making  expedition. 
.Sometimes  a  group  of  boys,  who  have  brought  away  spe- 
cially pleasant  memories  of  another  community  from 
some  festive  gathering,  will  decide  to  go  there  in  a  body, 
•on  a  regular  ulatile  expedition.  Here  secrecy  is  neces- 
sary, too.  For  though  such  expeditions  are  customary  and, 
in  a  way,  lawful,  they  constitute  an  encroachment  on  the 
rights  of  two  other  groups,  the  ordinary  sweethearts  of 
the  ulatile  boys,  and  the  youths  of  the  other  village.  If 
caught  by  either  party  the  adventurers  would  have  to 
face  a  volley  of  abuse,  or  even  of  blows  j  for  girls  in  the 
Trobriands  can  defend  their  rights  by  force,  and  the  boys 
in  each  community  regard  their  women  folk  as  their  own 
preserve.      The   adventurers  would,   thereforej    usually 



steal  out  at  night  and  put  on  their  ornaments  outside  their 
village.  But  once  on  the  main  road,  they  become  bois- 
terous and  defiant,  for  this  is  the  proper  behaviour  on  such 
an  occasion.  There  are  even  some  special  bawdy  songs, 
called  Wuwdy  to  which  they  keep  time  as  they  go  along. 

LO'UWA    SONG    (l) 

Necklace  of  Wawela! 

Aramwaye!       Bagigido^u! 
Hoho!  Fine  necklace! 

Say  am,  Rafa^odi. 

Sayam,  Rapa'odi. 
Bakwatega  Kadlratume, 

I  anchor  indeed  (on)      Kadiratume  (beach), 


He  sits  by  her 





young  man 3 
young  woman, 


she  stands  up. 



Free  Translation 
"Hoho — (I  come  adorned  with)  a  fine  necklace, 
The  necklace  of  Wawela,  like  Sayam  with  the  armshell 

I  anchor  on  a  beach  in  Gawa,  a  boy  sits  by  his  girl. 
She  stands  near  him.     Hallo!     Young  woman. 
Hurray,  hoho,  hurray." 

Sayam  is  said  to  be  a  man  celebrated  for  beauty  j  and 
famous  ornaments,  such  as  the  Rapa'odi  armshell,  are 
associated  with  attraction,  success  and  love  magic.     He 



appears  here  adorned  with  a  famous  armshell  named 
Rapa'odi,  which,  as  indicated  in  the  free  translation, 
means  that  the  "I"  of  the  song  also  wears  a  fine  neck- 
lace. In  the  reduplicated  form  un^unatmey  the  ;^  is  a 
dialectic  equivalent  of  the  /  of  ulatile. 


Hoho!  I'll  sleep, 

balage  kuftra 

I'll  hear  drum  his  (of) 


It  throbs  (with  dance  music) 
their  festival  skirts, 

Kala     wosi 

His       song 




LO'UWA    SONG    (ll) 

Bamasisiy  bamamata; 

I'll  wakej 

festival  skirts. 

it  fetches  (attracts) 
on  their  flanks. 

in  hand. 

owadolay       lakatunenm 
on  mouth,    his  small  drum 


his  teeth 

yamtu  Wavivi 

treads  (village  of)  Wavivi 


Yamtufnutu  Wavivi, 

He  treads  and  treads  (through  the  village  of)       Wavivi. 

Free  Translation 

Hoho!  I  awake  from  my  sleep,  I  hear  the  festive 
beat  of  the  drums,  as  they  throb  with  dance  music — 
attracting  women  with  full-dress  skirts,  with  festive 
skirts  on  their  flanks.     With  his  song  on  his  mouth, 



with  his  small  drum  in  his  hand,  his  teeth  blackened, 
Tokivina  rhythmically  treads  in  the  village  of  Wavivi, 
he  walks  in  dancing  rhythm  through  the  village  of 

In  this  short  song  we  have  a  condensed  picture  of  a 
ulatile  situation — the  awakening  at  night,  the  sound  of 
a  distant  drum  announcing  great  festivities  in  a  neighbour- 
ing village.  And  here,  again,  there  is  a  legendary  person 
moving  in  the  background,  partly  as  a  good  augury,  partly 
as  an  ideal.  The  psychology  of  this  traditional  worship 
of  personal  beauty  and  charm  will  be  discussed  later  on. 

Such  songs,  I  am  told,  were  also  sung  in  olden  days 
to  indicate  that  the  party  was  neither  on  the  warpath  nor 
on  a  sorcery  expedition,  nor  bent  on  any  other  real  mis- 
chief. As  they  approach  their  goal  they  become  quiet 
again,  for  they  must  not  be  seen  by  the  village  youths. 
The  girls,  of  course,  know  when  the  expedition  is  draw- 
ing near,  for  everything  has  been  previously  arranged  in 
detail.  The  visitor  most  familiar  with  the  village  creeps 
near  and  gives  the  agreed  signal.  One  by  one  the  girls 
sneak  out  of  the  houses  and  meet  their  lovers  in  the  bush. 
Sometimes  the  girls  are  already  awaiting  them  at  some 
pre-arranged  meeting  place  outside.  Should  this  gather- 
ing of  lovers  be  detected,  a  fight  might  ensue,  leading, 
in  former  times,  even  to  war  between  the  two  com- 

Such  ulaule  expeditions  are  definite  deviations  from 
the  regular  course  of  tribal  life.^  They  lead  invariably 
to  lovers'  quarrels  in  both  villages,  and  to  serious  dif- 

1  For  a  discussion  of  the  customary  abrogations  of  law  and  conflicts  be- 
tween various  classes  of  custom,  see  Crime  and  Custom,  part  ii. 



ferences  between  the  two  communities.  They  were  an 
important  feature  of  love  life  in  former  days  when 
armed  expeditions  for  purposes  of  love-making  were  more 
usual  than  an  individual  ulatile.  Nowadays,  however, 
when  it  is  so  much  easier  and  safer  for  a  man  or  woman 
to  walk  alone  even  at  night,  the  trysting  of  one  boy  with 
one  girl  is  much  more  common. 

To  preserve  perspective  and  to  place  the  ulatile  expe- 
ditions correctly  in  their  context  of  tribal  life,  it  must  be 
realized  that  there  are  various  occasions,  apart  from  court- 
ship, on  which  the  youth  of  the  village  would  visit  other 
communities  in  a  body.  At  harvest  and  during  the  danc- 
ing season  (see  pis.  57  and  58),  for  common  games  and 
mortuary  feasts,  groups  of  young  men,  more  or  less 
dressed  up,  can  be  met  on  the  road  or  seen  paddling  along 
in  the  large  fishing  canoes.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  the  love- 
making  expeditions  from  the  lagoon  villages  of  the  west 
coast  would  also  be  made  by  water  (see  pi.  60).  Thus 
a  party  of  boys  on  the  road,  decorated  and  singing,  may 
Le  bent  either  on  a  real  ulatile  expedition,  or  else  on  some 
ordinary  inter- village  business  or  amusement  j  and  it  is 
difficult  on  surface  evidence  to  draw  any  sharp  distinction 
between  erotic  and  other  expeditions. 

It  is  easy  to  see  how  inter-village  intrigues  fit  into  the 
general  scheme  of  courtship  described  in  chapter  iii.  The 
childish  erotic  experiences  with  which  the  sexual  life  his- 
tory of  an  individual  begins  always  takes  place  within  the 
community  5  the  ulatile  is  one  among  the  customs  which 
carry  erotic  interest  and  those  transitory  affairs,  which 
are  the  next  stage  in  development,  beyond  the  village.. 



Such  intrigues  may  become  permanent  and  thus  the  ulatiler 
is  one  of  the  ways  in  which  matrimonial  choice  is  extended 
beyond  a  single  village. 


In  matters  of  love  the  Trobriand  woman  does  not  con- 
sider herself  man's  inferior,  nor  does  she  lag  behind  him 
in  initiative  and  self-assertion.  The  ulatile  have  their 
counterpart  in  the  katuyausiy  amorous  expeditions  of  vil- 
lage girls  to  other  communities. 

Sometimes  these  expeditions  are  simply  to  avenge  too- 
much  ulatile  on  the  part  of  the  boys.  Or,  as  happens  in. 
coastal  villages,  the  men  are  long  absent  fishing,  trading,, 
or  sailing,  and  the  girls  seek  consolation  in  another  village. 
At  times  the  incentive  is  more  directly  feminine.  The 
girls  have  equipped  themselves  with  a  specially  brilliant 
supply  of  grass  petticoats,  and  want  to  display  them  on  a. 
wider  stage  than  their  own  village.  Some  of  my  cynical 
informants  affirmed  that  a  katuyausi  expedition  is  the 
girls'  best  means  of  replenishing  their  store  of  betel-nut 
and  tobacco  and  of  collecting  an  armlet  or  a  comb,  a. 
pleasing  handbag  or  a  new  supply  of  beads. 

I  am  also  under  the  impression  that  on  each  occasion, 
the  katuyausi  party  offer  some  pretext  for  their  visit,  such 
as  the  desire  to  see  the  crops,  or  to  admire  a  new  construc- 
tion, a  chief's  house  or  yam-house,  or  else  they  pretend, 
to  be  hawking  some  object  for  sale. 

Whatever  the  chief  incentive,  and  the  pretext,  as  sooa 



as  their  decision  is  taken  the  girls  will  choose  an  interme- 
diary to  arrange  the  date  and  conditions  of  their  prospec- 
tive visit  to  the  boys  of  the  other  village.  The  procedure 
of  a  katuyausi  expedition  differs  greatly  from  that  of 
a  ulatile.  The  boys  leave  after  sunset  under  cover  of 
night,  whereas  the  girls  start  as  a  rule  early  in  the  after- 
noon. The  boys  creep  out  of  the  village,  but  once  fairly 
on  the  road,  sing  and  behave  boisterously.  The  girls  also 
steal  quietly  away,  but  their  behaviour  is  decorous 
throughout  the  journey.  Near  the  other  village  the  boys 
have  to  hide,  but  the  girls  enter  the  village  grove  openly, 
sit  down  there  and  put  the  finishing  touches  to  their  toilet. 
They  paint  their  lips  red  with  betel-nut,  draw  decorative 
lines  on  their  faces,  and  fill  their  armlets  with  aromatic 
herbs  (pi.  6i).  It  is  etiquette  for  the  local  boys  to  allow 
them  to  remain  alone  on  the  outskirts  of  the  village  until 
they  give  the  sign  for  the  boys  to  approach.  During  this 
time  the  girls  may  sing,  play  the  native  (now  the  im- 
ported) Jew's  harp,  and  chew  betel-nut j  when  they  are 
ready  to  receive,  they  sing  the  song  which  is  the  previ- 
ously arranged  signal  for  the  boys  to  come  nearer.  The 
latter  have,  of  course,  been  expecting  them,  and  now  ap- 
proach in  groups.  Soon  the  whole  village  community  is 
seated  facing  the  girls,  with  the  exception  of  their  local 
rivals,  who  resent  the  intrusion  and  sulk,  though  custom 
does  not  allow  them  actively  to  interfere  with  the  pro- 

It  is  evening  by  now,  and  the  interesting  stage  of  the 
visit  is  approaching.  The  katuyausi  party  have  remained 
seated,  nonchalant  and  detached  (pi.  62).     The  youths 



and  older  men  stand  facing  them,  pursuing  their  own 
conversations  with  apparent  unconcern.  Then  banter  and 
jokes  begin  to  pass  from  one  side  to  the  other 5  the  boys 
come  nearer  the  girls  and  the  ceremony  of  choice  begins. 
According  to  custom,  the  initiative  in  pairing  off  should 
come  from  the  hosts,  and  each  guest  has  to  accept  any 
offer  made  to  her  as  a  matter  of  etiquette.  But,  of  course, 
definite  preferences  between  the  outstanding  individuals 
of  each  group  exist  and  are  known.  An  unimportant  boy 
would  not  dare  interfere  with  the  pleasure  of  his  stronger, 
elder,  and  more  influential  comrade,  so  that  in  reality  the 
choice  is  largely  based  on  anterior  intrigues  and  attach- 
ments. Each  boy  then  ceremonially  offers  a  small  gift 
to  the  girl  of  his  choice — a  comb,  a  necklet,  a  nose  stick, 
a  bunch  of  betel-nut.  If  she  accepts  the  gift  she  accepts 
the  boy  for  that  night  as  her  lover.  When  the  boy  knows 
the  girl  well  he  presents  the  gift  himself.  If  he  does  not, 
or  if  he  feels  too  shy,  he  will  ask  help  of  an  older  man, 
who  hands  over  the  offering  with  the  words,  ^^kam 
va^otu"  {va*otu — ^visiting  present,  present  of  induce- 
ment), "So-and-so  gives  it  to  you  5  you  are  his  sweet- 
heart." Very  rarely  does  a  girl  refuse  or  ignore  such  a 
present  J  if  she  did,  she  would  greatly  offend  and  mortify 
the  man. 

After  the  boys  and  girls  have  thus  been  allotted  in 
pairs,  they  all,  as  a  rule,  go  to  some  spot  in  the  jungle, 
where  they  spend  the  best  part  of  the  night  chewing, 
smoking,  and  singing,  each  couple  keeping  to  themselves. 
At  times  a  boy  and  a  girl  will  leave  the  main  group  with- 
out any  attention  being  paid  to  them.    Some  of  the  boys 



may  invite  their  sweethearts  to  spend  the  rest  of  the  night 
in  a  bukumatula  of  the  village,  but  usually  this  presents 
difficulties.  All  the  arrangements  associated  with  the 
katuyausiy  as  well  as  with  the  ulatile,  are  distinguished 
by  complete  decorum,  and  by  the  absence  of  all  orgiastic 
-elements.  They  are  carried  out,  no  doubt,  in  a  less  deli- 
cate manner  in  the  southern  villages  than  in  the  north, 
but  even  in  the  south  they  essentially  differ  from  such 
•orgiastic  customs  as  the  kamaU,  the  bi^Uy  and  the  custom 
of  the  yausay  which  will  be  described  in  the  next  section. 

As  far  as  I  could  gather,  in  former  times  no  year  would 
pass  without  some  two,  three  or  four  katuyausi  parties 
visiting  a  community.  The  first  missionary  had  to  ask 
for  a  special  regulation  in  order  to  put  down  this  "abom- 
inable abuse."  At  present,  as  a  result  of  the  white  man's 
interference  with  local  custom,  combined  with  his  intro- 
duction of  much  worse  immorality,  the  regulated  and 
decorous  custom  of  the  katuyausi  has  fallen  into  decay. 
But  even  while  I  was  in  the  Trobriands,  parties  of  girls 
from  Okaykoda  visited  Omarakana,  and  from  Kaybola 
went  to  Kwaybwaga3  also  the  Kwaybwaga  girls  avenged 
themselves  on  their  lovers  by  going  on  katuyausi  to 
Vilaylima.  Early  in  my  stay  at  Omarakana  in  191 8,  a 
number  of  such  guests  came,  at  harvest  time  and  osten- 
:sibly  to  admire  the  yams,  and  I  was  even  able  to  pho- 
tograph them  and  to  watch  the  earlier  part  of  the 

The  return  of  a  katuyausi  party  to  their  own  village 
is  often  a  sad  epilogue  to  a  gay  night.  The  girls  try  to 
•enter  the  village  and  regain  their  houses  unobserved. 



But  they  are  not  always  successful.  If  the  whole  party 
is  waylaid  and  caught,  the  reckoning  takes  place  then  and 
there.  The  culprits  are  abused,  beaten,  and,  as  I  was  told 
by  several  of  my  informants,  sometimes  actually  violated 
by  their  own  lovers  in  public.  Several  boys  would  hold 
a  girl,  while  the  rightful  owner  exercised  his  prerogative 
as  a  punishment.  If  this  be  true  it  is  the  only  exception 
to  that  rule  of  strict  decorum  in  public  which  is  observed 
by  all  Trobrianders,  with  the  exception  of  the  people  of 
Vakuta,  Okayaulo,  and  some  others  of  the  southern  vil- 



We  now  turn  to  the  extreme  south  of  the  main  island, 
and  the  adjoining  island  of  Vakuta.  We  have  already 
mentioned  these  districts,  not  very  honourably,  several 
times.  They  are  in  general  distinguished  ethnologically 
by  a  certain  coarseness  of  character  and  habit  which  is 
displayed  in  many  aspects  of  their  life.  In  sexual  matters 
they  are  undoubtedly  much  more  crude  than  the  north- 
erners, and  have  practices  which  would  offend  the  finer 
feeling  for  etiquette  and  decorum,  if  not  for  morals,  of 
the  latter.  Also,  in  the  past,  these  villages  were  on  hostile 
terms  with  most  of  their  neighbours. 

The  data  which  we  have  given  above  as  to  the  orgiastic 
character  of  one  or  two  forms  of  kayasa  receive  addi- 
tional confirmation  from  another  custom  which  used  to  be 
in  vogue  among  these  natives.  The  exact  nature  of  the 
custom,  its  full  details  and  its  correct  perspective,  must 



unfortunately  remain  obscure.  All  I  know  about  it  is 
from  hearsay,  and  the  custom  is  so  unlike  anything  which 
I  have  seen  myself,  that  I  am  unable  to  add  those  neces- 
sary touches  of  life  which  depend  on  actual  observation. 

All  districts  in  the  Trobriands  have  the  economic  custom 
of  female  communal  labour  in  the  weeding  of  gardens. 
Since  it  is  a  tedious,  monotonous  activity,  which  requires 
little  skill  and  not  much  attention,  and  can  be  best  enli- 
vened by  gossip  and  company,  the  women  work  together  at 
each  garden  in'turn,  until  all  the  village  plots  are  weeded 
over.  As  in  all  other  exclusively  feminine  occupations, 
it  is  bad  form  for  any  man  to  come  near  them  while  they 
are  working,  or  to  pay  any  attention  to  them  save  on  a 
matter  of  business. 

Now  this  communal  weeding  when  practised  by  women 
of  the  villages  of  Okayaulo,  Bwaga,  Kumilabwaga, 
Louya,  Bwadela,  or  by  the  villages  of  Vakuta,  gives  the 
weeders  a  curious  privilege.^  If  they  perceive  a  stranger, 
a  man  from  any  village  but  their  own,  passing  within 
sight,  they  have  the  customary  right  to  attack  him,  a  right 
which  by  all  accounts  they  exercise  with  zeal  and  energy. 

The  man  is  the  fair  game  of  the  women  for  all  that 
sexual  violence,  obscene  cruelty,  filthy  pollution,  and 
rough  handling  can  do  to  him.  Thus  first  they  pull  off 
and  tear  up  his  pubic  leaf,  the  protection  of  his  modesty 
and,  to  a  native,  the  symbol  of  his  manly  dignity.  Then, 
by  masturbatory  practices  and  exhibitionism,  they  try  to 
produce  an  erection  in  their  victim  and,  when  their 
manoeuvres  have  brought  about  the  desired  result,  one 

•"'•  Compare  map. 



of  them  squats  over  him  and  inserts  his  penis  into  her 
vagina.  After  the  first  ejaculation  he  may  be  treated 
in  the  same  manner  by  another  woman.  Worse  things 
are  to  follow.  Some  of  the  women  will  defecate  and 
micturate  all  over  his  body,  paying  special  attention  to  his 
face,  which  they  pollute  as  thoroughly  as  they  can.  "A 
man  will  vomit,  and  vomit,  and  vomit,"  said  a  sympathetic 
informant.  Sometimes  these  furies  rub  their  genitals 
against  his  nose  and  mouth,  and  use  his  fingers  and  toes, 
in  fact,  any  projecting  part  of  his  body,  for  lascivious 
purposes.  The  natives  from  the  north  are  very  much 
amused  by  this  custom,  which  they  despise  or  affect  to 
despise.  They  love  to  enter  into  details,  and  to  demon- 
strate by  convincing  mimicry.  Local  informants  from  the 
south  confirmed  this  account  in  all  essentials.  They  were 
by  no  means  ashamed  of  their  custom,  regarding  it  rather 
as  a  sign  of  the  general  virility  of  the  district,  and  passing 
on  any  possible  opprobrium  to  the  stranger-victims.  Some 
of  my  local  informants  added  that  at  the  yausa^  as  this 
custom  is  called,  women  would  throw  off  their  fibre  skirts, 
and  naked  "like  a  band  of  tauva^u*^  (evil  spirits)  pounce 
upon  the  man.  He  also  added  that  hair  would  be  torn 
from  the  man's  head,  and  that  he  would  be  lacerated  and 
beaten  till  he  was  too  weak  to  get  up  and  move  away. 



Such  is  the  natives'  account  of  the  yausa.    What  are  the 
facts?     I  never  observed  them  at  first  hand 3  partly  be- 



cause  I  was  never  able  to  go  south  at  the  time  of  weed- 
ing, partly  because  I  was  told  that,  even  now,  no  stranger 
to  the  district  would  dream  of  going  there  at  that  season. 
Had  I  gone  there  in  person,  the  negative  result  would 
have  been  ethnologically  disappointing,  the  positive  dis- 
tinctly unpleasant  5  so  I  abstained.  When  I  tried,  as 
always  in  such  cases,  to  test  the  general  statement  by  his- 
torical fact,  to  find  out  how  many  people  had  been  thus 
ill-treated — who,  when  and  on  what  occasion — I  invari- 
ably drew  a  blank.  I  always  received  the  same  answer: 
"Oh,  people  are  so  afraid  that  no  one  would  dare  to  come 
near."  The  only  concrete  argument  in  support  of  its 
truth  was  that  Misipelosi  and  Misimoytena  (the  Rev. 
S.  B.  Fellowes,  the  first  Missionary,  and  the  Hon.  M.  H. 
Moreton,  the  first  Resident  Magistrate)  had  been  afraid 
to  face  the  yausa^  and  that  no  gumanuma  (white  man) 
had  ever  dared  to  do  so.  I  also  was  begged  not  to  make 
any  attempt  to  go  south  in  the  yausa  season,  and  I  obeyed 
the  advice.  And  I  thus  became  another  proof  of  the 
reality  of  this  custom  to  the  natives. 

So  I  was  left  with  the  principal  question  unanswered: 
is  this  custom,  so  exactly  and  minutely  described,  so 
prominent  in  the  native  interest,  a  fact  in  the  sense  that 
it  has  been  really  practised?  or  only  in  so  far  that  it 
would  be  practised  should  occasion  arise?  Or  is  it  merely 
one  of  those  customs  which  only  exist  in  belief  and  in 
legend,  and  have  never  had  any  basis  in  actual  occurrence? 

The  most  that  can  be  said  with  certainty  is  that  the 
yausay  if  it  happened  at  all,  happened  extremely  rarely 5 
for  even  less  in  the  olden  days  than  now  would  a  stranger 



have  occasion  to  visit  those  inhospitable  regions,  which 
were  on  a  hostile  footing  with  all  their  neighbours  and 
always  ready  to  harm  a  stranger  in  one  way  or  another. 
Taking  the  tradition  at  its  lowest  value,  it  is  a  standing 
myth,  backed  up  by  lively  interest  and  a  strong  belief. 
It  gives  the  women  of  the  region  a  bellicose  attitude,  it 
surrounds  them  at  weeding  time  with  an  absolute  taboo, 
and  gives  their  communal  work  in  the  garden  the  char- 
acter of  a  sex  privilege.  The  only  parallel  for  the  cus- 
tom in  folk-lore  is  the  legend  about  Kaytalugi,  the  land 
of  the  sexually  insatiable  women  (see  ch.  xii,  4)  5  and  in 
actual  fact,  the  orgiastic  nature,  in  the  south,  of  the 
kayasa  of  the  tug-of-war  and  of  the  erotic  scratching,  and 
the  greater  sexual  coarseness  to  be  found  there."^ 

It  is  characteristic  that  all  the  natives  are  interested 
in  this  custom  and  amused  by  it.  Whenever  any  cognate 
or  associated  subject  is  discussed — gardens,  communal 
work,  the  position  of  women,  fighting  or  sex — the  yausa 

^  In  this  matter  parallels  might  be  found  perhaps  among  tribes  further 
south  on  the  d'Entrecasteaux  Archipelago,  and  on  the  mainland  of  New 
Guinea.  I  was  told  by  a  white  trader  that  on  the  southern  shore  of  Nor- 
manby  Island  there  are  several  orgiastic  performances  and  festivities. 
On  certain  occasions  a  small  hut  with  a  very  high  front  gable  is  con- 
structed and  passes  under  the  name  of  "the  entrance  of  the  body."  In 
this  hut  a  girl  will  remain  during  the  festivity,  boys  will  visit  her  semi- 
publicly,  and  have  intercourse  with  her  one  after  another.  Again, 
among  the  natives  of  the  south  coast,  east  of  Orangerie  Bay  (the  Da'ui 
and  Su'au),  several  boys  sometimes  cohabit  with  one  girl,  each  in  the 
presence  of  another:  a  procedure  which  would  be  repugnant  to  the  Tro- 
briander's  finer  sensibilities.  On  the  other  hand,  such  tribes,  for  instance, 
as  the  Dobuans  of  the  d'Entrecasteaux  Archipelago  and  the  Mailu,  are 
considerably  more  restrained  in  sexual  matters  than  either  the  Trobri- 
anders  or  the  other  Southern  Massim.  Compare  C.  G.  Seligman,  op.  cit., 
on  the  Southern  Massim,  chap,  xxxviii,  "Courtship,  Betrothal,  and  Mar- 
riage," and  chap,  xliii,  "Morals."  Compare  also  my  account  of  the  Mailu 
in  the  "Natives  of  Mailu,"  Transactions  of  the  Royal  Society  of  South 
Australia,  1915. 



is  dragged  in,  and  the  natives  embark  on  detailed  and 
graphic  descriptions,  until  it  becomes  the  anthropologist's 
bugbear.  Only  once  did  I  find  it  really  useful.  In  one 
of  the  surly,  reticent  and  coarse  communities  on  the 
lagoon,  there  was  special  difficulty  in  finding  suitable 
informants.  One  afternoon  I  was  working  with  a  group 
of  unwilling  informants,  seated  under  a  large  banyan 
tree  on  the  shore  of  the  lagoon.  It  was  one  of  those  slack 
and  sterile  periods  so  well-known  to  the  field-worker, 
when  he  discovers  only  gaps  and  inconsistencies  in  his 
information,  becomes  cross  and  bored  with  his  native 
instructors,  and  they  with  himj  when  the  imprisonment 
in  a  profoundly  alien  and  emotionally  meaningless  cul- 
tural atmosphere  weighs  heavily  and  everything  tempts 
to  desertion  at  any  cost.  In  such  moods  the  lagoon  land- 
scape, so  charming  and  so  monotonous,  symbolized  this 
temptation,  luring  my  eyes  towards  the  dimly  visible 
Koya,  the  southern  mountains  of  the  Amphlett  and 
d'Entrecasteaux  archipelagoes — ^where  lay  my  road  back 
to  civilization.  I  looked  at  the  scene  on  the  beach  (pi.  63) 
and  envied  some  visitors  from  the  south,  who  were  due 
to  sail  home  in  a  day  or  two.  Conversation  was  flagging, 
and  I  could  get  nothing  out  of  my  informants,  until  we 
happened  on  the  subject  of  the  yausa.  Immediately  the 
natives  became  voluble  and  dramatic  j  their  laughter  and 
animation  attracted  other  people,  and  soon  I  was  sur- 
rounded by  a  group  of  men,  among  whom  I  was  able 
to  find  some  tolerably  good  informants  for  my  future 
work.  At  the  same  time,  I  had  a  practical  demonstration 
of  the  contrast  between  the  way  in  which  such  a  custom 



is  represented  by  those  who  have  it,  and  by  those  who 
do  not.  By  the  local  men  it  was  obviously  caricatured 
as  a  shameful  and  savage  habit  5  the  men's  derisive 
laughter  and  amused  exaggerations  were  a  clear  indica- 
tion of  how  superior  they  felt  to  the  benighted  heathen 
who  practised  it.  But  the  southern  visitors,  some  of 
whom  had  come  from  Okayaulo  and  Bwadela,  the  home 
of  the  yausa,  took,  in  a  later  conversation,  a  different 
view,  showing  no  embarrassment  whatever.  They  told 
me  boastfully  that  no  stranger  ever  dared  to  enter  their 
district  at  that  time,  that  they  themselves  were  the  only 
people  free  to  walk  about,  that  their  women  were  the  best 
garden-weeders  and  the  most  powerful  people  in  the 
island.  The  two  districts  have  been  in  contact  for  cen- 
turies, they  speak  the  same  language  and  have  an  identi- 
cal culture.  Yet  neither  the  custom  of  yausa  nor  the 
mental  attitude  which  characterizes  it  have  begun  to 
diffuse.  The  mental  attitudes  are  correlated  and  fit  into 
each  other,  but  each  district  adheres  to  its  own  prerogative 
of  superiority,  which  consists  in  contradicting  the  other's 
point  of  view. 




In  the  course  of  this  inquiry  we  have  been  gradually 
approaching  our  main  interest,  and  taking  an  increasingly 
detailed  view  of  native  love-making.  At  first  we  merely 
made  a  general  survey  of  the  social  organization  and 
economic  activities  of  the  natives,  in  so  far  as  they  affect 
the  relative  positions  of  man  and  woman  in  the  com- 
munity. We  studied  their  associations  and  their  diver- 
sions, in  private  and  in  public,  at  work  and  at  play,  in 
magical  and  religious  pursuits,  as  well  as  in  everyday  life. 

Then  coming  nearer  to  our  special  subject  we  followed 
the  typical  progress  of  courtship,  and  found  it  leading 
to  marriage  and  parenthood.  In  the  last  chapter  wc  de- 
scribed certain  customs  which  enrich  and  diversify  the 
normal  course  of  courtship. 

In  this  chapter  it  will  be  necessary  to  observe  the  dal- 
liance of  lovers  at  still  closer  quarters.  We  have  to  learn 
the  nature  of  their  love  interest  and  of  the  bonds  which 
unite  them. 

Throughout  my  exposition,  I  have  always  attempted 
not  only  to  state  the  norm,  but  to  indicate  the  exceptions, 
to  trace  what  might  be  called  the  amplitude  of  deviation, 
the  margin  within  which  people  usually  try,  and  some- 
times succeed,  in  circumventing  the  strict  rule.     As  we 



proceed  now  to  the  study  of  more  intimate  behaviour,  the 
elasticity  of  the  rule  becomes  greater,  and  it  grows  more 
imperative  to  give  a  dynamic  description  of  how  a  rule 
or  an  institution  works,  rather  than  how,  in  native  theory, 
law  and  morality  is  supposed  or  desired  to  work. 

In  general,  as  the  ethnographer  moves  away  from  the 
big  fundamental,  well-defined  institutions — such  as  fam- 
ily, marriage,  kinship  organization,  the  clan,  exogamy, 
the  rules  of  courtship — towards  the  manifold  details  of 
personal  life,  his  methods  of  observation  must  become 
more  complex  and  his  results  less  reliable.  This  cannot 
be  remedied  and,  for  our  comfort,  it  may  be  remembered 
that,  even  in  the  most  exact  fields  of  human  thought  and 
experience,  a  theoretical  result  can  only  be  verified  within 
certain  limits.  The  most  exact  of  human  observations  is 
only  approximate,  and  all  that  even  the  chemist  or  physi- 
cist can  do  is  to  state  the  limits  within  which  his  error  is 
encompassed.  When  investigating  integral  institutions, 
such  as  marriage  or  the  family,  the  ethnographer  should, 
if  he  be  doing  competent  and  intensive  field-work,  rely 
on  observation  rather  than  on  what  the  native  informants 
tell  him.  But  when  dealing  with  the  subtler  phases  of 
behaviour,  this  rule  cannot,  unfortunately,  always  be  fol- 
lowed. In  the  study  of  sexual  attraction  and  the  growth 
of  a  passion,  direct  observation  is  always  difficult,  and  at 
times  impossible,  and  a  great  deal  of  information  has  to 
be  collected  from  confidences  and  gossip. 

The  ethnographer  must  be  alert  to  all  that  happens 
round  him.  He  must  patiently  win  his  way  into  village 
life  and  make  such  personal  friendships  as  encourage 



spontaneous  confidences  and  the  repetition  of  intimate 
gossip.  He  must  check  ad  hoc  statements  by  remarks 
dropped  in  more  unguarded  moments,  explicating  the  im- 
plied and  estimating  the  importance  of  reservations  and 
reticences.  For  these  are  everywhere  apt  to  be  more 
illuminating  than  direct  affirmations,  and  are  especially  so 
among  these  natives,  whose  keen  sense  of  delicacy  makes 
the  roundabout  and  allusive  way  the  natural  approach  to 
such  subjects.  It  is  possible  to  force  them  into  speaking 
directly,  but  this  always  produces  an  artificial  and  false 
mental  attitude,  and  exclusive  reliance  on  such  a  method 
would  lead  to  results  which  lack  entirely  the  colour  of 
real  life. 

Thus  in  the  most  delicate  subjects  the  ethnographer  is 
bound  to  a  large  extent  to  depend  on  hearsay.  Yet  if 
he  resides  for  a  long  time  among  the  natives,  speaks  their 
language  and  makes  close  personal  acquaintances,  he  will 
be  provided  with  sufficiently  useful  information.  His 
material  will  be  certainly  better  than  if  it  had  been  ob- 
tained through  the  mechanical  pumping  of  informants  by 
the  question-and-answer  method  at  so  many  sticks  of 
tobacco  an  hour. 

Love  is  a  passion  to  the  Melanesian  as  to  the  Euro- 
pean, and  torments  mind  and  body  to  a  greater  or  lesser 
extent  3  it  leads  to  many  an  imfassey  scandal,  or  tragedy 5 
more  rarely,  it  illuminates  life  and  makes  the  heart  ex- 
pand and  overflow  with  joy.  "Out  of  a  full  heart  the 
mouth  speaketh,"  and  the  cold  ethnographer  must  indus- 
triously jot  down  confidences  poured  out  under  the  stress 
of  strong  personal  emotion.    Also  the  gossip  of  those  not 



directly  affected  by  the  event,  yet  sufficiently  interested 
in  it  to  talk,  especially  if  it  be  untoward — fuisquHl  y  a 
quelque  chose  dans  les  malheurs  de  nos  amis  qui  ne  nous 
deflalt  fas — is  scarcely  less  valuable  material  for  the 

Spontaneous  outpourings  and  village  gossip  dictated 
by  genuine  interest,  records  of  past  tragedies,  and  stories 
of  erotic  adventure,  have  yielded  most  of  the  raw  material 
for  the  descriptions  given  in  this  chapter.  And  the  direct 
knowledge  of  personal  histories  and  interests  made  it 
possible  for  me  to  get  a  true  perspective,  to  look  at  mat- 
ters from  the  native  point  of  view.  I  was  even  often 
able  to  go  behind  the  explicit  statements  of  the  natives, 
observing,  as  sometimes  happened,  that  their  actions  and 
feelings  belied  their  words,  and  following  up  the  clue 
thus  given  me. 

The  reader  will  remember  the  misadventures  of 
Bagido'u,  one  of  my  best  friends  and  informants  (see 
pi.  64,  and  ch.  vi,  sec.  i),  the  animosities  and  quarrels 
between  Namwana  Guya'u  and  Mitakata  (see  pi.  3  and 
ch.  i,  sec.  2),  the  boasting  Gomaya  and  his  relations  to 
Ilamweria  (see  pi.  39  and  ch.  vii,  sec.  4).  It  would 
have  been  impossible  for  me  to  ascertain  the  rules  of 
custom  and  the  moral  ideas  of  the  natives  without  the 
subjective  outpourings  of  these  friends  of  mine. 

Side  by  side  with  such  live  material,  I  naturally  always 
endeavoured  to  collect  objective  "documents":  records 
of  historical  events,  samples  of  tradition,  folk-lore  and 
magic.  Thus  my  general  impressions,  and  strong  but 
somewhat  vague  intuitions,  were  constantly  checked  and 



confirmed  by  data  drawn  from  every  sphere  of  tribal  life. 
In  fact,  chronologically,  the  "documents"  are  usually  ob- 
tained first,  but  their  real  comprehension  can  be  gained 
only  from  the  knowledge  of  real  life. 

The  reader  interested  in  methodology  will  realize  that 
this  exposition  by  cumulative  versions — passing  from  in- 
stitutions through  the  general  record  of  a  life  history  to 
the  detailed  and  intimate  analysis  which  follows — does 
justice  not  only  to  the  nature  of  the  material,  but  also  to 
the  manner  of  its  collection. 

After  this  digression  on  the  method  of  collecting  data 
and  of  their  presentation,  let  us  return  once  more  to  a 
Trobriand  village  and  approach  a  group  of  young  people 
playing  in  the  moonlight,  in  festive  mood  and  dressy  let 
us  try  to  see  them  as  they  see  each  other  j  follow  up  their 
attractions  and  repulsions.  So  far  we  have  kept  at  a 
discreet  distance  from  the  intimate  behaviour,  the  motives 
and  feelings  of  lovers.  More  especially  we  have  never 
attempted  to  spy  upon  their  passionate  caresses.  Now  we 
must  try  to  reconstruct  the  history  of  a  personal  intrigue, 
to  understand  the  first  impressions  made  by  beauty  and 
charm,  and  to  follow  the  development  of  a  passion  to 
its  end. 


What  is  it  that  makes  the  boys  look  with  entranced 
attention  at  one  among  a  group  of  girls,  moving  rhyth- 
mically in  a  game  or  carrying  baskets  at  harvest  3  or  that 
fascinates  the  girls  in  one  of  the  dancers  who  lead  the 



ring  of  swift  runners  in  a  kaydebu  dance?  (See  pi.  6$.) 
Is  it  possible  for  us  to  find  out  why  a  member  of  either 
sex  is  almost  universally  rejected  and  why  another  is 
sought  after  J  why  one  category  is  labelled  as  plain  or 
unattractive  and  another  as  fascinating  and  beautiful? 
The  European  observer  soon  finds  that  his  standard  of 
personal  charm  does  not  essentially  differ  from  that  of  the 
natives,  when  he  has  once  become  accustomed  to  the 
physical  type  and  to  the  mannerisms  of  the  Melanesians. 
Thus,  for  instance,  the  girl  on  plate  66  is  universally 
regarded  as  a  beauty,  the  one  on  plate  67  as  a  plain 
woman  3  and  with  this  opinion  the  reader  will  not  disagree. 
And  yet  the  latter  is  a  well-built  woman  and  of  a  pro- 
nounced Melanesian  type.  But  it  would  be  perhaps  diffi- 
cult and  certainly  useless  to  convey  native  standards  of 
beauty  by  means  of  European  phrases  and  comparisons. 
Fortunately  there  are  a  number  of  native  expressions, 
descriptions  and  categories  which  furnish  some  sort  of 
objective  material,  and  together  with  the  ethnographer's 
commentary,  may  convey  a  fairly  adequate  idea  of  the 
Trobriander's  ideal  of  beauty. 

It  must  be  understood  that  the  problem  of  erotic 
charm  with  which  we  are  now  engaged,  is  different  from 
that  discussed  in  chapter  iv,  which  was  concerned  with  the 
motives  which  lead  a  Trobriand  man  or  woman  to  enter 
upon  matrimony.  In  this  connection,  we  found  that 
personal  preference,  though  a  powerful  inducement  to 
marriage,  was  only  one  among  others,  some  social,  some 
economic  and  some  domestic.  And  even  in  the  matter 
of  personal  preference,  the  erotic  motive  is  not  exclusive. 



A  man  or  woman  of  mature  age  will  choose  a  domestic 
partner  quite  different  from  the  paramour  who  occupied 
the  best  part  of  his  or  her  youth.  Marriage  is  often 
determined  by  the  attraction  of  character  and  personality 
rather  than  by  sexual  adaptation  or  erotic  seduction.  This 
fact,  which  has  been  already  mentioned,  I  found  con- 
firmed in  many  concrete  cases  and  in  a  hundred  details. 
Only  in  the  passing  intrigues  is  simple  bodily  charm  the 
principal  attraction.  Let  us  return  then  to  our  imaginary 
pair  and  try  to  find  out  what  it  is  that  they  see  in  each 
other,  as  lovers. 

When  treating  of  love  in  fiction  or  anthropology,  it 
is  easier  and  more  pleasant  to  imagine  objects  really 
worthy  of  admiration.  In  the  Trobriands  it  would  not 
be  difficult  to  find  them,  even  for  one  equipped  with 
European  taste  and  Nordic  race  prejudices j  for,  within 
a  considerable  variety  of  types,  there  are  to  be  found 
men  and  women  with  regular  delicate  features,  well-built 
lithe  bodies,  clear  skins,  and  that  personal  charm  which 
predisposes  us  towards  a  man,  a  nationality,  or  a  race. 

Verbal  descriptions  of  a  racial  type  are  always  weak 
and  unconvincing.  They  may  be  couched  in  anthropo- 
metric terms  and  backed  by  numerical  data,  but  these  give 
little  help  to  the  imagination  and  could  only  stimulate  a 
physical  anthropologist.  It  is  better  for  the  reader  to  look 
at  pictures,  in  this  book  and  in  other  works  where  the 
Trobrianders  have  been  described,^  and  to  hear  what  the 

1  As,  for  instance,  in  C.  G.  Seligman,  op.  cit.,  and  in  Argonauts  of  the 
Western  Pacific.  For  comparative  anthropometric  data  concerning  Mela- 
nesians  and  Papuans,  cf.  "A  Classification  of  the  Natives  of  British  New 
Guinea,"  J^ourn.  R.  Anthrop,  Inst.,  vol.  xxxix,  1909,  by  C.  G.  Seligman. 



natives  themselves  have  to  say  on  the  subject  o£  beauty 
and  its  opposite. 

The  natives  are  never  at  a  loss  when  asked  what  ele- 
ments go  to  the  making  o£  personal  beauty  in  man  or 
woman.  The  subject  is  not  only  interesting  to  them  as  to 
all  other  human  beings,  but  it  is  surrounded  by  a  rich  folk- 
lore and  therefore  commands  an  extensive  vocabulary. 
Many  of  their  legends  and  songs  have  been  specially  com- 
posed to  exalt  some  famous  dancer  or  singer,  and  in  such 
texts  there  are  descriptions  of  ornament  and  dress,  and 
expressive  phrases  referring  to  personal  appearance.  The 
charms  used  in  beauty  magic  give  instructive  indications  of 
the  Trobriander's  desires  and  ideals,  as  do  also  the  laments 
for  the  dead,  and  descriptions  of  the  blissful  life  in  Tuma, 
the  land  of  the  departed. 

But  although  the  renown  and  tradition  of  famous 
beauties  is  handed  down  for  generations  with  rich  de- 
scriptive details,  it  is  difficult  for  the  ethnographer  to  find 
a  living  model  for  his  inquiry.  Whenever  I  asked  any 
of  the  old,  and  therefore  expert,  connoisseurs  of  beauty 
whether  any  living  woman  could  match  the  radiant 
divinities  drawn  from  their  own  and  their  father's 
memories,  the  answer  was  always  in  the  negative.  The 
Golden  Age  of  real  beauty  seems  to  be  quite  over! 

Let  us  approach  the  ideal  of  beauty  by  way  of  its  nega- 
tion, and  see  what,  for  the  native,  makes  a  person  ugly 



and  repulsive,  and  therefore  impossible  from  the  erotic 
standpoint.  Deformity  and  disease  in  mind  or  body,  old 
age  and  albinism,  all,  according  to  native  statements,  put 
a  person  beyond  the  pale  of  erotic  interest.  The  ex- 
pressions fnlgtla  gaga  (his  face  bad),  or  tomlgaga  (ugly 
man,  literally  man — face — ^ugly)  are  frequently  in  use, 
and  often  with  the  added  comment:  "No  one  would  sleep 
with  such  an  one." 

Malformations  are  rare,  and  I  myself  cannot  recall 
a  single  hunchback  or  congenitally  deformed  person. 
Through  accident  men  may  lose  a  limb:  kaykela  ifwase 
(his  leg  has  rotted  away)  3  yamda  ifwase  (his  arm  has 
rotted  away)  j  but  the  most  frequent  congenital  defect  is 
that  of  speech,  which  the  natives  describe  by  the  same 
word,  tonagoway  as  is  applied  to  idiocy  and  feeble- 

The  bad  or  repulsive  characters  of  folk-lore  are  also 
endowed  with  bodily  deformities  or  abnormalities. 
Dokonikan,  the  most  prominent  ogre  of  Kiriwinian  folk- 
lore, has  several  rows  of  teeth  and  cannot  speak  properly. 
Women  covered  with  hair  and  men  with  disgusting  bodies 
figure  in  some  fairy  tales. 

As  regards  disease:  sores,  ulcers,  and  skin  eruptions  are 
naturally  held  to  be  specially  repulsive  from  the  view- 
point of  erotic  contact.  Also  to  be  so  afflicted  is  the  usual 
punishment  for  breaking  certain  taboos.  Indeed,  a  num- 
ber of  such  taboos  are  only  observed  by  young  men,  and 
have  no  other  raison  d^etre  than  to  prevent  their  skins 
from  being  covered  with  sores.  They  might  be  called 
specific  beauty  taboos.     Thus,  it  is  dangerous  to  eat  fish 



which  is  not  quite  fresh,  or  fish  which  has  a  very  strong 
flavour.  Some  kinds  of  fish  are  covered  with  unseemly 
scales  or  spots,  and  these  also  are  forbidden  to  young 
men  and  women.  Young  people  must  abstain  from  yams 
or  fish  which  have  been  cut  with  a  sharp  instrument. 
Similar  taboos  have  to  be  kept  by  men  about  to  sail  on 
an  overseas  expedition;  they  will  say  that  they  must  only 
eat  "good  fish"  so  that  their  faces  may  be  beautiful.^ 

The  unpleasant  disease,  tropical  ring-worm,  covering 
the  skin  with  perpetually  peeling  scales,  and  very  prev- 
alent among  Melanesians,  is  said  to  be  a  definite  draw- 
back, and  persons  with  this  disease  would  not  be  reckoned 
among  the  beauties  even  if  their  faces  were  fine.  But  it 
does  not  seem  to  form  a  positive  bar  to  love-making,  any 
more  than  to  other  pursuits.  On  the  other  hand,  this 
repulsive  and  contagious  affliction  is  a  real  inconvenience 
to  the  field-worker,  who  has  constantly  to  deal  with 
afflicted  natives  and  takes  a  long  time  to  become  accus- 
tomed to  it. 

Old  age  is  felt  to  be  a  serious  handicap  in  affairs  of 
.gallantry.  The  contrast  between  repulsive  old  age  and 
attractive  youth  is  brought  out  clearly  in  myth.  A  hero, 
who  is  unsuccessful  because  of  his  elderly  appearance, 
becomes  rejuvenated  and  gets  everything  that  he  wants. 
First  the  marks  scored  upon  him  by  the  hand  of  time  are 
ruthlessly  enumerated:  a  wrinkled  skin,  white  hair,  and 
toothless  jaws.  Then  the  magical  change  is  described: 
his  rounded  face,  the  smooth  full  lines  of  his  body,  his 
sleek,  glossy  skin,  the  thick  black  hair  covering  his  head, 

1  Cf.  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  p.  336. 



the  beautiful  black  teeth  shining  between  vermilion  lips. 
Now  he  can  win  the  favours  of  desirable  women,  and  im- 
pose his  wishes  on  men  and  Fate.  Such  pictures  are  drawn 
in  two  of  the  chief  myths  of  the  kula  (the  ceremonial 
exchange),  which  plays  such  a  great  part  in  tribal  life,  and 
shows  so  many  psychological  affinities  to  their  erotic  in- 
terests. Similar  pictures  are  also  to  be  found  in  the  myth 
of  rejuvenation,  in  the  ideas  of  the  natives  concerning  a 
future  life,  and  in  one  or  two  fairy  tales.^ 

Obesity  is  extremely  rare,  and  in  its  more  pronounced 
forms  is  classed  as  a  disease.  Baldness  is  not  infrequent. 
It  is  considered  a  blemish,  and  a  certain  amount  of  criti- 
cism is  contained  in  the  word  tokuluhakami  (bald  man, 
literally  man-occiput  empty-space).  To  a  Kiriwinian, 
however,  it  is  not  so  fatal  as  it  is  to  his  European  contem- 
porary, for  wigs  are  still  used  in  that  happy  island  (pi. 
68).  Either  a  narrow  band  of  hair  is  tied  just  above  the 
forehead — a  sort  of  fuzzy  wreath — or  a  wig  covering  the 
whole  head  is  worn.  The  wig  is  made  by  sewing  tufts  of 
hair  on  to  a  skull  cap  made  of  plaited  fibre  or  string.  The 
hair  is  easily  obtained,  for  mourning  customs  demand  that 
every  member  of  the  afflicted  community,  with  the  excep- 
tion of  the  deceased's  clansmen,  shall  shave  off  his  beau- 
tiful mop  of  hair. 

Cutting  off  the  hair  is  not  the  only  mourning  custom 
which  aims  at  the  reduction  of  personal  charm.  The 
transformation  in  appearance  imposed  by  mourning  em- 
bodies, to  a  certain  extent,  the  native  idea  of  what  is  ugly. 

1  For  the  hula  myth  cf.  Argonauts,  pp.  307-10  and  322-4,  and  Myfh  in 
Primitive  Psychology,  1926. 



The  shaven  head,  the  body  blackened  with  a  thick  layer 
of  mixed  grease  and  charcoal,  colourless  and  purposely 
soiled  dress,  no  ornaments  and  no  scents — these  are  the 
outward  signs  of  bereavement.  The  transformation  un- 
dergone by  a  woman  in  mourning  is  shown  in  the  frontis- 
piece, where  two  girls,  equally  pretty  under  normal  con- 
ditions, can  be  contrasted.  In  fact,  the  idea  that  the  chief 
mourner,  especially  the  widow,  should  be  made  ugly  so 
that  she  may  not  attract  other  men,  is  explicitly  stated  by 
natives,  and  is  also  implied  in  the  whole  scheme  of  mor- 
tuary proceedings,  apart  from  the  alteration  in  appearance 
(see  ch.  vi). 

The  essential  conditions  of  personal  charm  are  now 
obvious  5  normal  bodily  build,  health,  absence  of  mental 
and  functional  disorders,  strong  growth  of  hair,  sound 
teeth,  and  a  smooth  skin — all  signs  of  vigour  and  of  a 
good  constitution. 

But  an  important  caution  must  here  be  entered.  Na- 
tives speak  with  such  horror  about  the  various  forms  of 
ugliness,  and  repulsion  is  so  clearly  discernible  in  their 
behaviour  that  there  is  no  temptation  to  doubt  their  word. 
In  fact,  in  games  and  amusements,  an  albino,  an  idiot,  or 
a  man  afflicted  with  skin  disease  is  so  completely  left  out 
of  the  fun  that  his  loneliness  and  isolation  wake  pity 
even  in  the  frigid  heart  of  an  ethnographer.  Thus  ob- 
servation fully  confirmed  the  verbal  proposition  in  which 
all  the  natives  are  agreed,  that  all  such  people  are  abso- 
lutely debarred  from  sexual  intercourse  and  that  they 
have  to  resort  to  solitary  means  of  satisfaction.  Never- 
theless, I  began  to  doubt  its  validity,  when,  in  the  course 



of  my  field-work,  this  very  proposition  was  adduced  as 
proof,  with  many  illustrative  examples,  that  a  woman  can 
have  children  without  sexual  intercourse  (see  ch.  vii,  3 
and  4).  Tilapo'i  (to  quote  cases  already  mentioned)  had 
one  child,  Kurayana  as  many  as  sixj  while  a  few  albino 
girls  have  been  blessed  with  numerous  offspring j  yet:  "No 
man  would  approach  them,  they  are  so  repulsive"  was 
made  the  major  premise  of  the  syllogism — though  many 
of  my  informants  must  have  known  better! 

The  more  thorough  research  which  followed  my  reali- 
zation of  this  discrepancy  revealed  the  astonishing  fact 
that  strong  and,  no  doubt,  genuine  physical  repulsion  does 
not  prevent  a  Melanesian  from  the  sexual  act.  This  prob- 
ably has  some  connection  with  their  manner  of  carrying 
out  this  physiological  activity.  I  was  able  to  ascertain  that 
the  ugliest  and  most  repulsive  people  have,  not  only  spo- 
radic, but  regular  intercourse.  Orato'u,  a  tonagowa — 
meaning  in  this  case,  not  an  idiot  but  one  afflicted  with 
defective  speech  and  a  repulsively  deformed  face — can 
always  obtain  favours  from  the  village  beauties  of  Omara- 
kana,  the  residence  of  the  paramount  chief,  whose  hench- 
man he  is  and  whose  wives  he  is  said  to  know  intimately 
enough.  The  albino  seen  on  pi.  3  8  has  had  several  noto- 
rious love  affairs.  In  most  of  the  villages  where  I  worked 
I  could  mention  a  few  old  and  thoroughly  repulsive 
women  who  were  able,  especially  if  they  or  their  hus- 
bands were  of  high  rank,  to  obtain  young  and  attractive 
boys  as  lovers. 

When  I  discussed  this  with  my  friend,  the  late  Billy 
Hancock  of  Gusaweta — a  trader  of  exceptional  intelli- 



gence  and  one  of  the  finest  men  I  have  known — he  told 
me  that  he  had  long  ago  arrived  at  the  same  conclusion 
independently,  and  quoted  from  memory  a  number  of 
striking  instances,  in  some  of  which  the  women  were  re- 
pugnant, as  he  said,  "far  beyond  the  toleration  of  a 
drunken  sailor."  He  also  mentioned  the  experience  of  a 
medical  officer,  especially  appointed  in  the  Trobriands  for 
the  treatment  of  venereal  disease.  This  official  was  once 
baffled  by  finding  all  the  boys  in  a  community  afflicted 
with  very  virulent  and  obviously  recent  gonorrhea,  while 
all  the  women  to  be  considered  in  this  connection  were  as 
yet  quite  healthy.  Finally  he  obtained  a  confession  from 
one  of  his  patients  that  he  and  his  companions  had  copu- 
lated among  others  with  a  woman  so  old,  decrepit,  and 
ugly,  that  the  medical  officer  had  thankfully  and  unhesi- 
tatingly omitted  her  in  his  several  inspections.  It  was 
found  that  she  was  the  source  of  infection,  and  that  she 
had  for  a  long  time  been  active  in  persuading  boys  to 
copulation.  The  boys,  on  discovery,  tried  to  belittle  the 
fact  and  to  present  the  whole  matter  as  a  joke,  but  they 
were  in  reality  rather  mortified.  The  attitude  of  my  in- 
formants when  I  confronted  them  with  such  and  similar 
facts  was  also  "ambivalent."  They  had  to  admit  that 
some  people  will  copulate  with  repulsive  women,  but  they 
treated  it  simply  as  the  sign  that  such  people  are  of  un- 
sound mind. 

This  was  one  more  of  the  several  cases  in  which  I  found 
how  strongly  convention  (ideals  of  behaviour)  obsesses 
the  mind  of  the  natives,  but  only  on  the  surface  and  con- 
trolling  their   statements   rather   than   their   behaviour. 



Things  about  which  he  would  not  like  even  to  speak, 
much  less  admit  to  having  done,  a  native  simply  denies 
with  consistency  and  vigour,  although  he  is  perfectly 
aware  that  they  do  happen,  perhaps  even  under  his  own 
roof.     Tout  comme  chez  nous! 


Vigour,  vitality,  and  strength,  a  well-proportioned 
body,  a  smooth  and  properly  pigmented,  but  not  too 
dark  skin  are  the  basis  of  physical  beauty  for  the  native. 
In  all  the  phases  of  village  life  I  have  seen  admiration 
drawn  and  held  by  a  graceful,  agile  and  well-balanced 
person.  The  same  generalization  can  be  inductively 
drawn  from  what  we  shall  say  here  of  the  native  canons 
of  perfection  in  form  and  colour,  bodily  smell,  quality  of 
voice,  and  grace  of  movement. 

Since  the  natives  have  an  extended  view  of  each  other's 
bodies,  there  is  no  artificial  barrier  to  their  sesthetic  interest 
in  themj  nor  are  the  various  elements  in  erotic  fascination 
placed  in  the  false  perspective  which  makes  our  full  Eu- 
ropean clothing  the  instrument  of  artificial  modesty  as 
well  as  of  disguised  allurement,  so  that  an  estimation  of 
erotic  values  is  difficult  and  complex,  and  is  based  on 
fashions  in  dress  as  well  as  on  the  appreciation  of  physical 
beauty.  With  this  advantage  over  us,  it  is  a  notable  fact 
that  their  main  erotic  interest  is  f ocussed  on  the  human 
head  and  face.  In  the  formulas  of  beauty  magic,  in  the 
vocabulary  of  human  attractions,  as  well  as  in  the  ar- 



senal  of  ornament  and  decoration,  the  human  face — eyes, 
mouth,  nose,  teeth,  and  hair — ^takes  precedence.  It  must 
be  observed  that  the  head  plays  an  important  part  in  magic 
as  an  object  for  admiration,  and  not  as  the  seat  of  the 
erotic  emotions,  for  these  are  placed  in  the  lower  part  of 
the  belly.  For  the  rest  of  the  body,  the  breasts  in  the 
woman  and  build  and  size  in  the  man  are  most  important, 
with  the  colour  and  the  quality  of  their  skins.  In  certain 
magical  formulas,  all  the  limbs  and  portions  of  the  human 
torso  are  enumerated,  besides  the  features  of  the  face  and 
head.    In  others,  however,  only  the  latter  are  mentioned. 

The  outline  of  the  face  is  very  important  5  it  should  be 
full  and  well  rounded.  The  phrases  miltyaflla  (like  the 
full  moon)  j  ifnilibwata  (like  the  round  moon) ;  kalubu- 
hovatu  (its  roundness),  appear  frequently  in  magical  for- 
mulas. The  forehead  must  be  small  and  smooth.  The 
word  talisalisa  (to  smooth)  recurs  in  beauty  charms.  Full 
cheeks,  a  chin  neither  protruding  nor  too  small,  a  com- 
plete absence  of  hair  on  the  face,  but  the  scalp  hair  de- 
scending well  on  to  the  forehead,  are  all  desiderata  of 

Cosmetics  are  used  on  the  face  more  than  on  any  other 
part  of  the  body.  Facial  painting  {soba)  is  done  in  black, 
red,  and  white  (pi.  76).  For  the  red,  either  a  compound 
of  betel-nut  and  lime  is  used  or  red  ochre.  Certain  forms 
of  clay,  sometimes  mixed  with  crushed  coral,  were  for- 
merly used  to  produce  white  5  but  nowadays  European 
white  lead  has  taken  the  place  of  this,  though  red  is  still 
usually  made  with  native  pigments.  Black  can  be  put  on, 
either  with  simple  charred  coco-nut  fibre  or  some  other 



form  of  charcoal,  or  else  with  a  mixture  of  this  and  an 
aromatic  oil,  prepared  by  cutting  aromatic  wood  into  small 
pieces  and  boiling  it  in  coco-nut  oil.  The  wood  preferred 
in  this  preparation  is  called  sayakuy  and  it  is,  I  think, 
sandal  wood  imported  from  the  eastern  islands  (Wood- 
lark  and  Marshall  Bennett).  A  similar  though  less  ap- 
preciated wood,  kadikokoy  is  found  in  the  Trobriands  and 
can  be  used  for  the  same  purpose.  The  strongly  scented 
mixture  is  kept  in  coco-nut  oil  bottles  and  used  for  the 
tracing  of  fine  lines  on  the  face.  The  natives  make  a 
clear  distinction  between  decorative  painting  {soba)j  which 
enhances  their  beauty,  and  smothering  themselves  in  soot 
{koido)  in  order  to  extinguish  all  their  attractions  in  sign 
of  mourning. 

Having  indicated  the  general  character  of  facial  beauty, 
let  us  proceed  to  the  details.  The  eyes,  as  we  know,  are 
to  the  natives  the  gateways  of  erotic  desire  (ch.  vii,  i)j 
they  are  also,  in  themselves,  a  centre  of  erotic  interest. 
Biting  off  the  eyelashes,  the  custom  of  muakuku  as  it  is 
called,  plays  an  important  part  in  love-making.  The 
expression  agu  mitakuku  ("my  bitten-off  eyelashes")  is  a 
term  of  endearment.  The  eyes  are  frequently  referred 
to  in  the  magic  of  beauty:  mitayan  (shining  eyes)  ^  mituh- 
woyili  (lovely  eyes)  5  mitapwa^i  (bright  eyes).  Eyes 
should  be  shining,  but  they  should  be  small.  On  this 
point  the  natives  are  quite  decided.  Large  eyes,  fuynor- 
fuynay  are  ugly.  There  is  no  special  beauty  treatment 
for  the  eyes,  except,  of  course,  shaving  the  eyebrows 
which,  together  with  the  biting  ofF  of  eyelashes,  leaves 
them  singularly  naked  to  European  taste.    Neither  is  any 



magic  specifically  devoted  to  their  lustre  and  other  charms. 

Next  to  the  eyes,  the  mouth  is,  perhaps,  the  most  im- 
portant feature.  It  plays  a  conspicuous  part  in  love-mak- 
ing, and  its  beauty  is  highly  esteemed  in  native  aesthetics. 
It  should  be  very  full,  but  well  cut.  Protruding  lips 
{ka^uvala^u  wadola)  are  considered  as  unattractive  as 
pinched  or  thin  ones  {kaywoya  wadola).  Very  ugly,  I 
was  told,  is  a  hanging  lower  lip.  There  is  a  special  magic 
of  beauty  associated  with  the  mouth.  It  is  the  magic  of 
taloy  the  red  paint  made  of  betel-nut,  which  is  used  to 
redden  the  lips. 

The  nose  should  be  full  and  fleshy,  but  not  too  large. 
A  nose,  which  the  natives  call  kafatatdy  that  is  long,  nar- 
row and  sharp,  in  short  aquiline,  is  ugly.  A  beautiful 
nose  is  called  kabuUtoto  (standing-up  nose),  for  too  flat 
a  one  is  also  a  serious  blemish,  and  men  or  women  so 
handicapped  are  called  tonafa^i  or  nanapaH  according  to 
sex.  A  nose-stick  used  to  be  considered  aesthetically  in- 
dispensable, but  it  is  now  gradually  going  out  of  fashion, 
and  there  is  no  magic  associated  with  this  ornament  or  its 

The  ears  must  be  neither  too  small  nor  too  large — a 
safe  rule  to  follow  for  all  parts  of  the  body,  whether  in 
the  Trobriands  or  elsewhere.  Ears  that  stand  out  from 
the  head  {tiginayd)  are  distinctly  ugly.  Every  ear  must 
be  pierced  at  the  lobe  and  ornamented  with  ear-rings. 
The  hole  is  made  early  in  childhood  by  placing  on  the 
ear  a  turtle  shell  ring  which  has  been  cut  and  the  ends 
sharpened,  so  that  the  points  gradually  work  their  way 
through  the  gristle.     The  resultant  small  hole  is  then 



gradually  enlarged  until  a  considerable  opening  sur- 
rounded by  a  pendulous  ring  is  formed  in  the  lobe.  This 
is  filled  with  ear-rings  of  turtle  shell  and  other  orna- 
ments, especially  red  discs  made  of  spondylus  shell.  Such 
treatment  of  the  ear  is  de  rigueurj  otherwise  a  man  or 
woman  would  be  said  to  have  tegibwalodila  (ears  like  a 
bush  pig). 

Teethj  in  order  to  be  really  attractive,  have  to  be  black- 
ened {kuduhwa^u:  literally  black  teeth,  or  gigiremutu:  an 
expression  for  the  process).  This  blackening  is  done  by 
placing  a  piece  of  a  special  mangrove  root  against  the 
teeth  overnight  and  repeating  the  process  over  a  long  pe- 
riod. The  majority  of  the  Trobrianders  do  not,  however, 
blacken  their  teeth. 

Hair  in  its  proper  place  is  considered  a  great  beauty, 
but,  as  we  know,  it  must  not  be  allowed  to  grow  anywhere 
except  on  the  scalp.  Eyebrows  are  shaved  off,  the  beard 
is  never  allowed  to  grow  except  by  old  men  "who  do  not 
wish  to  have  anything  to  do  with  women."  Hair  is  never 
pulled  out  J  it  is  always  shaved,  in  the  old  days  with  ob- 
sidian, at  present  with  bottle  glass.  The  hair  on  the  head 
is  admired  when  it  is  very  full,  and  then  it  is  allowed  to 
grow  into  a  thick  mop  of  which  almost  every  hair  radi- 
ates from  the  scalp,  in  the  manner  so  characteristic  of 

The  natives  distinguish  black,  light  and  grey  hair 
{yahwahwa^Uy  yadidaydaya  and  yasoso^u).  The  albino 
is  called  tofwaka^Uy  "man  with  white  hair,"  or  tososo^Uy 
"man  with  grey  hair."  They  further  classify  it  as 
straight-to-wavy  (yasinare^i  or  yasisiye^i) ;  curly  {yasusay- 



hulu)\  thick  and  moppy  {yamtumwatu)\  tangled  and 
almost  matted  {yakulufaki  or  yatutuya).  The  two  mid- 
dle qualities  are  considered  beautiful  5  but  the  straight-to- 
wavy  and  the  matted  kinds  are  not.  As  to  the  trimming 
and  dressing  of  it,  the  really  typical  Melanesian  mop, 
gugwafo^Uy  is  the  favourite  mode.  When  it  is  cut  round 
the  sides  and  back  and  left  long  on  top,  giving  the  head 
an  elongated  cylindrical  form,  it  is  called  bobobu.  Some- 
times when  a  man  comes  out  of  mourning,  the  hair  is 
allowed  to  grow  in  the  middle  of  the  head,  while  the 
edges  are  kept  shaved  5  this  is  called  takwadoya.  Hair 
which  is  growing  after  mourning  is  called  sayva^u  while 
it  is  still  short.  Persons  of  rank  in  mourning  have  the 
privilege  of  leaving  some  hair  at  the  back  of  the  head 
near  the  nape  of  the  neck  (pi.  25).  This  grows  into  long 
strands  which  are  plaited  sometimes  and  are  called  saysuya 
(literally,  "ringlets"). 

Body  hair  {unu^unu — a  word  also  given  to  the  growth 
on  yam  tubers,  on  the  backs  of  leaves  and  so  forth)  is 
regarded  as  ugly  and  is  kept  shaven.  Only  in  myth  and 
in  fairy  tale  do  certain  people  appear  who  are  covered 
with  unu^unu'y  to  the  natives  a  grotesque  and  at  the  same 
time  a  perverse  characteristic. 

Hair  dressing  plays  a  great  part  in  the  personal  toilet. 
Trimming  is  done  by  means  of  a  sharpened  mussel  shell 
{kaniku)  and  the  hair  is  cut  off  in  tufts  against  a  piece 
of  wood.  It  is  combed  or  teased  with  a  long-pronged 
wooden  comb  {smata)'j  and  one  of  the  most  important 
types  of  beauty  magic  is  done  over  the  comb.  We  have 
seen  that  teasing  out  the  hair   {fulufuluy  wayfulu  or 



waynoku)  is  the  centre  of  certain  festivals  {kayasa)j 
which  are  really  organized  solely  for  the  display  of  this 
beauty.  Nails  are  cut  and  trimmed  with  sharpened  mus- 
sel shell. 

A  slim,  straight,  tall  body  is  much  admired  in  a  man. 
Kaysakiy  like  a  "swift  long  canoe,"  kuytubo^  like  a  rounded: 
tree,  are  both  terms  of  praise,  of  which  the  latter  shows- 
that  emaciation  is  not  an  asset.  Kaylohu — well  adorned,, 
well  trimmed — expresses  the  same  idea.  All  three  words 
occur  in  the  lament  of  a  widow  for  her  young  husbands 

In  women,  also,  a  slim  body  without  excessive  ab- 
dominal development  is  considered  desirable.  Kaygumita 
(slirn),  nasasaka  (small-bellied),  are  words  of  praise. 
Napofoma  (pot-bellied),  nasoka  (with  the  body  like  a 
globe-fish),  on  the  contrary,  express  disapproval. 

A  woman's  breasts  are  of  special  importance.  The 
same  word  nunu  is  used  to  describe  the  female  breast, 
the  nipple  in  man  or  woman,  the  central  portion  of  the 
male  chest,  and  milk.  There  are  a  number  of  partly 
metaphorical,  partly  specific  expressions  to  describe  the 
sesthetic  appearance  of  the  female  breasts.  Nutaviya 
(like  the  taviya^  a  small  round  fruit)  describes  a  full, 
round,  firm  formation  j  and  nufiyakwa,  a  word  the  ety- 
mology of  which  I  was  unable  to  trace,  has  the  same 
connotation.  Nupfisiga  or  nupisiga  is  applied  to  small, 
undeveloped,  girlish  breasts,  which  are  considered  less 
attractive  than  the  first  category.  For  flabby  breasts  the 
word  nusawewo  is  used,  a  compound  of  the  specific  prefix 
nu  and  the  word  sawewby  to  hang  limply  down,  as,  for 
instance,  a  ripe  fruit  hangs.     Another  apt  simile  is  con- 



tained  in  the  word  nukaybwibwiy  in  which  long,  thin, 
pendent  breasts  are  compared  to  the  aerial  roots  of  the 
pandanus  tree.  Breasts  wrinkled  and  flabby  with  age  are 
called  fwanunuy  the  prefix  px)a  meaning  deterioration 
and  nunu  being  the  specific  noun.  The  meaning  of  this 
word  has  become  extended  to  describe  wrinkled  skin  in 

Firm,  well-developed  breasts  are  admirable  in  a 
woman.  Adolescent  girls  massage  (j*uwoli)  their  breasts, 
which  then  may  also  be  called  nu*ulawolu  (literally,  mas- 
saged breasts).  When  a  lover  prefers  his  girl  with  small 
breasts,  he  will  say,  yoku  tage  kuwoU  nunum;  kwunufisiga 
("Do  not  thou  massage  thy  breasts,  remain  with  girlish 

To  return  to  physical  beauty  in  general,  it  has  already 
been  mentioned  that  smoothness  of  skin  and  a  full  brown 
colour  are  much  sought  after.  In  magical  formulas, 
smooth  objects  with  a  pleasant  surface  are  often  men- 
tioned in  this  connection:  fish  without  scales,  trees  with 
smooth  bark,  smooth,  rounded  shells.  As  to  the  colour, 
dark  brown  is  decidedly  a  disadvantage.  In  the  magic  of 
washing  and  in  other  beauty  formulae,  a  desirable  skin  is 
compared  with  white  flowers,  moonlight,  and  the  morning 
star.  Pregnancy  magic  has  already  given  us  an  example 
of  this  ideal  of  bodily  perfection.  But  deficient  pigmen- 
tation is  not  admired  5  and  the  insipid,  pale  yellowish 
brown  which  is  sometimes  found,  is  as  unpleasant  to  the 
Trobriander  as  to  the  European.  Albinos,  with  their 
flaxen  hair  and  long  golden  body  fluff,  their  enormous 



freckles,  as  if  something  dirty  and  brown  had  been 
splashed  over  them,  produce  an  unpleasant  impression  on 
European  and  native  alike  (pi.  38). 


The  main  care  of  the  body  is  directed  to  cleanliness. 
The  natives  have  an  extreme  sensitiveness  to  smell  and  to 
bodily  dirt.  Kakaya  (bathing,  or  washing  all  over  with 
plenty  of  water)  is  the  first  act  in  all  ceremonial  orna- 
mentation, and  is  a  frequent  one  at  other  times.  The 
natives  often  rinse  their  hands  and  wash  their  faces,  such 
minor  ablutions  being  called  wini.  Washing  before  a 
grand  toilet  is  always  followed  by  anointing  {futuma) 
with  coco-nut  oil,  which  gives  a  fine  lustre  to  the  skin  and 
is  also  a  strong  and  lasting  deodorizer.  If  possible,  some 
perfume  is  added  to  the  oil:  pandanus  flower,  gayawOy  the 
aromatic  butia  blossom,  and  other  scented  flowers  and 
herbs  according  to  the  season,  are  used  for  this  purpose  j 
as  is  the  aromatic  paint,  sayakuy  which  has  already  been 

Dried  and  bleached  leaves  are  the  material  for  native 
dress,  the  men  using  the  pandanus — or,  to  produce  a 
garment  of  a  finer  quality,  the  areca  palm — and  the 
women,  banana  leaves  (see  pi.  69).  Their  dress  is  of  the 
slightest,  especially  for  men,  who  only  wear  a  pubic  leaf. 
This  is  a  narrow  band  which  covers  the  pubic  regions,  the 
lower  part  of  the  abdomen,  and  the  back  up  to  the  first 



lumbar  vertebrae.  The  band  is  attached,  front  and  back, 
to  a  belt.  Usually  above  this  support  the  man  wears 
another  ornamental  belt,  made  sometimes  of  valuable 
material.  The  pubic  leaf  is  very  carefully  adjusted,  so 
that  the  limited  area  which  modesty  demands  should  be 
hidden  remains  always  precisely  and  carefully  covered. 
Men  very  seldom  take  off  their  pubic  leaf,  except  in 
the  intimacy  of  their  sleeping  place.  Only  when  fish- 
ing or  bathing  with  other  men  is  it  removed.  The  word 
yavi-  (pubic  leaf)  takes  the  same  suffixed  possessive  pro- 
nouns as  are  only  otherwise  used  with  parts  of  the  human 
body  (yavigu,  my  leaf  j  yavim,  thy  leaf  j  yavila,  his  leaf  j 
and  so  on).  This  gives  a  grammatical  expression  to  the 
intimate  union  of  this  garment  with  the  male  body. 

Women  wear  skirts  made  of  narrow  strips  of  vegetable 
fibre,  variously  prepared  and  coloured.  A  full  descrip- 
tion of  the  technology  of  Trobriand  "models"  and  of 
feminine  psychology  in  the  always  important  matter  of 
dress  would  lead  to  a  voluminous  dissertation.  To  be 
brief:  women  wear  an  underskirt  and  a  top  skirt.  At 
home  and  among  intimate  friends  and  when  at  work,  the 
top  skirt  is  taken  off,  and  only  the  petticoat  remains  (see 
pis.  9,  1 8,  21 ).  This  is  usually  shabby  and  always  scanty; 
but  it  adequately  fulfils  all  the  demands  of  modesty. 
The  overskirts  are  full  and  sometimes  very  thick.  At 
ordinary  seasons  and  for  ordinary  purposes  they  are  not 
artificially  stained  and  show  only  their  natural  rich  gold- 
and-silver  colour  of  dried  coco-nut  or  banana  leaf.  In 
times  of  mourning  and  during  menstruation,  slightly 
longer  skirts  are  worn.    For  bathing  or  during  rain,  coco- 



nut  fibre  Is  preferred  to  other  materials.  The  greatest 
variety  of  colour  and  form  is  seen  in  the  gala  skirts  worn 
during  harvest  and  at  festivities  (pis.  13,  61,  69).  These 
display  radiant  combinations  of  colour,  all  the  range  of 
materials  available  and  great  ingenuity  in  "cut."  The 
word  for  the  female  garment  is  dohay  also  used  with 
aifixes  of  nearest  possession.  In  its  compound  form  it 
changes  some  of  its  vowels,  as  dabegUy  my  skirt,  daheryiy 
dahelay  and  so  forth. 

The  more  important  ornaments  have  already  been 
mentioned  incidentally.  The  natives  adorn  themselves 
with  wreaths  of  aromatic  blossom  j  put  flowers,  especially 
the  red  hibiscus,  in  their  hair,  and  aromatic  herbs  or  long 
leaves  and  streamers  into  their  armlets.  Necklaces  of 
shell  and  wild  banana  seed  are  worn,  and  armlets  on  the 
upper  arm.  All  men  and  women  wear  ear-rings  and 

The  body,  as  distinguished  from  the  face,  is  very  sel- 
dom painted,  and  no  tattoo  markings  are  ever  visible.  I 
am  told  that  girls  at  the  time  of  their  first  menstruation 
are  tattooed  round  the  vagina.  This  tattooing  is  called 
k?uk?Uy  and  is  done,  according  to  my  informants,  for 
aesthetic  purposes.  Also  men  and  women  burn  marks  on 
their  forearms,  as  an  adornment. 

One  more  personal  charm  must  be  mentioned — ^the 
voice.  The  good  singer  is  only  second  in  renown  to  the 
good  dancer.  The  power  of  a  beautiful  voice  is  known 
and  praised  far  and  wide,  and  many  instances  of  seduc- 
tion by  song  are  quoted.    Perhaps  the  most  notorious  is 



that  of  Mokadayu,  whose  success. with  the  fair  sex  cul- 
minated in  an  incestuous  liaison  with  his  own  sister,  one 
of  the  most  beautiful  girls  in  the  village/ 

As  a  background  to  Trobriand  ideals  of  beauty,  it  may 
be  interesting  to  hear  the  natives'  comments  on  other 
racial  types.  Though  other  natives  are  generally  consid- 
ered less  attractive  than  one's  own  tribe,  distinctions  are 
made  and  degrees  of  ugliness  gradated.  The  pure  Papuan 
type  from  the  Papuan  Gulf  and  from  the  northern  coast, 
who  are  now  frequently  seen  in  the  Trobriands  with  white 
men,  are  undoubtedly  classed  as  the  least  attractive. 
Their  ugliness  is  chiefly  ascribed  to  their  dark  skin;  it  is, 
in  fact,  much  darker  than  the  Trobriander's,  and  has  a 
characteristic  chocolate  tinge.  Their  pronouncedly  frizzy 
hair  and  their  strange  manner  of  dressing  it  in  plaits  and 
fringes  is  also  regarded  as  very  unbecoming.  Unattrac- 
tive, too,  are  their  prominent  thin  lips  and  their  large, 
aquiline,  almost  Jewish  noses,  set  in  a  long  narrow  face. 
These  criticisms  were  made  to  me  on  the  occasion  of  a 
series  of  dances  performed  by  Papuan  Gulf  natives  who 
had  been  employed  on  one  of  the  plantations.  Their 
dancing  was  genuinely  admired,  but  not  their  physical 
appearance.  The  Dobuans  with  their  dark  skin,  their 
thick-set  build,  and  their  short  necks,  are  often  made  fun 
of  by  the  Trobrianders.  The  more  distant  natives  from 
the  Eastern  Archipelagos,  the  Southern  Massim,  receive 
much  higher  marks  for  beauty.  In  spite  of  the  fact  that 
they  are  more  distant  strangers  to  the  Trobrianders  than 

1  Compare  Sex  and  Repression,  1927,  part  ii,  ch.  iv,  and  ch.  xiv,  3,  of 
this  work,  where  the  story  of  Mokadayu  is  given. 



are  the  Dobuans,  the  natives  realize  that  they  are  racially 
akin  and  say:  "They  are  like  us,  fine-looking." 

Europeans,  the  natives  frankly  say,  are  not  good-look- 
ing. The  straight  hair  "coming  round  the  heads  of 
women  like  threads  of  im^^  (coarse  pandanus  fibre  used 
for  making  strings)  5  the  nose,  "sharp  like  an  axe  blade" j 
the  thin  lips  5  the  big  eyes,  "like  water  puddles"  3  the 
white  skin  with  spots  on  it  like  those  of  an  albino — all 
these  the  natives  say  (and  no  doubt  feel)  are  ugly.  It 
is  only  fair  to  observe,  in  justice  to  their  good  manners 
and  personal  urbanity,  that  they  were  quick  to  add  that 
the  ethnographer  was  a  meritorious  exception  to  the  rule. 
They  always  told  me  that  I  looked  much  more  like  a 
Melanesian  than  like  an  ordinary  white  man.  They  even 
fortified  this  compliment  by  specific  documentation:  thick 
lips,  small  eyes,  absence  of  any  sharp  outline  in  the  nose, 
were  credited  to  me  as  assets.  The  only  points  on  which 
they  were  discreet  and  honest  enough  not  to  compliment 
me  were  my  forehead  and  my  hair.  I  am  afraid,  how- 
ever, that  the  Trobrianders  are  more  polite  than  truthful, 
and  it  must  be  remembered  that  personal  praise  is  by  right 
of  custom  always  repaid  with  a  suitable  gift  of  tobacco  or 
betel-nut,  which,  rather  than  sesthetic  conviction,  may 
have  been  the  motive  of  the  compliment  (see,  however, 
pi.  68). 

It  is  clear,  then,  that  the  Trobrianders  prefer  their 
own  racial  type,  and  that  this  is  not  mere  parochial  con- 
ceit, since  they  make  reasoned  distinctions  between  other 
types  and  give  praise  where  it  is  due.  Thus  the  Southern 
Massim  they  regard  as  their  equals  5  and  are  even  ready 



to  admit  that  the  Eastern  portion  of  the  Northern  Mas- 
sim,  the  natives  of  Woodlark  Island  and  the  Marshall 
Bennett  group,  are  their  superiors  in  personal  appearance. 
I  may  add  that,  in  common  with  all  strangers,  I  was  less 
susceptible  at  first  to  individual  differences  and  more  im- 
pressed by  the  general  type.  But  with  greater  familiarity, 
I  also  came  to  feel  that  too  dark  or  too  yellow  a  skin,  too 
straight  or  too  frizzy  hair,  a  mouth  as  thin  as  that  of  a. 
European,  and  an  aquiline  nose  were  features  unpleasant 
in  a  Melanesian.  At  the  same  time  I  became  able  to  ap- 
preciate beauty  within  the  racial  type  and  de  facto  always 
knew  more  or  less  who  would  be  attractive  to  a  native, 
and  who  not.  Even  the  artificial  transformations — shiny 
black  teeth  in  thick  vermilion  lips,  graceful  scrolls  painted 
in  three  colours  over  the  face,  flaming  hibiscus  blossoms 
in  the  thick  black  mop  of  hair,  golden  brown  skins,  glossy 
with  coco-nut  oil — ceased  to  impress  me  as  mere  grotesque 
masquerade,  and  I  saw  them  as  becoming  adjuvants  to 
personal  beauty.  After  all,  it  takes  us  some  time  to  be- 
come accustomed  to  the  changing  fashions  of  our  own 
race  and  to  detect  beauty  where  at  first  we  were  only  able 
to  see  caricature. 

I  still  remember  the  feeling  of  slight  surprise  at  the 
formula  of  beauty  with  which  the  old  chief  To'uluwa 
started  my  first  discussion  of  the  subject: 

^^Migila  bubowatu;  matala                 kuvikekita; 

"Face  his  (hers)  rounded^    eye  his  (hers)     small 5 

kabulula  kaykekita;  kudula                           sene 

nose  his  (hers)  small  ^         tooth  his  (hers)           very 



kobwabwa^U'y      kulula  sene         kohuhowatu?^ 

blackened j         hair  his  (hers)         very         rounded  off." 

This  terse  sentence  roughly  summarizes  the  results  of  our 
study,  and  gives  an  approximate  standard  of  personal 
beauty.  It  presents  a  blend  of  cultural  values,  biological 
impulses  and  racial  preferences.  The  point  of  view  can 
be  understood  by  a  European  5  that  is,  if  he  can  maintain 
the  feeling  of  human  or  biological  solidarity  across  racial 
and  cultural  differences,  and  a  sufficient  mental  plasticity 
to  become  thoroughly  familiar  with  the  cultural  and 
aesthetic  standards  of  another  people. 


To  understand  the  effect  of  personal  charm  on  the  na- 
tive, it  may  be  helpful  to  present  a  typical  Trobriand 
love  affair  against  the  background  of  Western  romance. 

Love  is  precipitated  with  them,  as  with  us,  by  the  first 
shock  received  from  beauty  and  personality  j  but  a  world 
of  customary  and  cultural  differences  divides  the  after- 
effects of  this.  The  initial  barriers  preventing  a  rapid 
sexual  intimacy  between  two  people  in  love,  which  are  so 
characteristic  of  all  higher  civilizations,  for  us  endow  the 
beloved  with  inestimable  virtues  and  enclose  him  or  her 
in  an  aura  of  holy  and  mysterious  desirability.  In  men 
whose  creative  imagination  is  developed  beyond  their 
practical  sense  of  the  realities,  such  passionate  attachments 
may  lead  simply  to  day-dreaming  and  excessive  shyness 



in  the  romantic  relation,  or  to  such  outpourings  as  we  find 
in  Vita  Nuova  or  Petrarch's  Sonnets.  This  shy,  self- 
centred  adoration,  this  extreme  creative  exaltation  of  the 
eternal-feminine — of  the  Beatrice  or  Gretchen  leading 
man  into  the  presence  of  God — is  a  real  type  of  Western 
romance,  standardized  in  some  of  the  highest  works  of 
art,  but  existing  also  in  many  not  gifted  with  the  power 
of  self-expression.  The  reaction  against  this  same  arti- 
ficially fostered  mystery  and  the  consequent  idealization 
of  woman,  is  seen  with  opposite  results  in  the  invective 
and  indictment  of  Schopenhauer  and  Nietzsche. 

The  man  in  the  street,  who  sustains  the  same  shock, 
does  not  write  sonnets,  but  none  the  less  he  surrounds 
the  object  of  his  serious  affection  with  a  more  temperate 
exaltation  and  worship.  At  the  same  time  his  emotion 
finds  practical  expression,  and  he  seeks  every  opportunity 
for  closer  acquaintance.  If  liking  ripens  into  mutual  love, 
the  affair  will  follow  the  customary  course  of  courtship, 
engagement,  and  marriage.  A  man  and  woman  may  be 
driven  by  natural  passion  to  the  final  consummation, 
athwart  all  social  or  moral  rules,  but  it  is  none  the  less 
true  that  real  love  leads  men  and  women  of  our  culture, 
not  to  the  direct  satisfaction  of  the  sexual  urge,  but  to  a 
gradual  blending  of  sensuous  elements  with  the  general 
spiritual  attraction.  Personal  intimacy  in  a  full  common 
life,  legally  sanctioned,  is  the  direct  goal  of  our  romantic 
ideology,  and  the  rest,  including  sexual  relations,  follows 
as  a  tacit  implication. 

Let  us  turn  to  an  average  Melanesian  youth  attracted 
by  a  girl  who  is  not  put  beyond  his  reach  by  the  taboos 



of  kinship,  social  standing,  or  too  great  a  difference  in 
personal  charm.  In  him,  also,  the  first  impression  pro- 
duces an  aesthetic  and  sensuous  reaction  which  transforms 
its  cause  into  something  desirable,  valuable,  and  worthy 
of  strenuous  effort.  But  the  feeling  of  mystery,  the  desire 
to  worship  at  a  distance  or  merely  to  be  admitted  into  her 
presence,  is  not  there.  The  Trobriand  boy  has  had  many 
sexual  experiences  with  girls  of  the  same  type  as  his  new 
ideal  3  and,  from  childhood,  the  attraction  of  beauty  and 
direct  erotic  approach  have  been  intimately  associated  in 
his  experience.  He  has  not  to  stumble  upon  the  final  ful- 
filment of  erotic  desire,  he  immediately  anticipates  it.  All 
the  customs,  arrangements,  and  codes  of  behaviour  dic- 
tate simple,  direct  approach,  as  we  shall  see  in  the  fol- 
lowing description. 

An  interesting  sidelight  is  thrown  upon  Trobriand 
courtship  by  the  customs  in  other  Melanesian  communi- 
ties, where  sexual  freedom  is  much  more  restricted,  and 
where  the  gradual  approach  and  something  of  romantic 
love  exist.  In  the  nearest  ethnographic  region  to  the 
south,  the  Amphletts,  and  in  the  next  one  to  this,  which 
is  inhabited  by  the  Dobuan  tribe,  prenuptial  intercourse 
is  regarded  as  reprehensible,  and  custom  does  not  en- 
courage the  free  mixing  of  children  in  erotic  games  nor 
open  untrammelled  intercourse  between  boys  and  girls, 
nor  institutions  such  as  the  bukumatula  (bachelors'  and 
girls'  house).  From  a  limited  experience  in  the  Am- 
phletts, I  received  the  impression  that  prenuptial  inter- 
course hardly  exists  at  all,  and  in  Dobu  it  is  certainly  much 
more  restricted  than  in  the  Trobriands.    Correlated  with 



this,  we  find  a  number  of  arrangements  which  allow  of  a 
prolonged  courtship  and  which  are  symptomatic  of  a  love 
not  specifically  directed  towards  sexual  intercourse.  I  was 
told  that  both  districts  have  love  songs  and  that  the  boys 
court  by  playing  on  pan-pipes  or  on  a  Jew's-harp j  also 
that  boys  and  girls  meet  at  games  and  in  amusements  for 
the  sake  of  personal  acquaintance  and  social  intercourse 
only.  During  the  later  stages  of  courtship  and  before 
marriage,  a  boy  is  allowed  to  visit  his  betrothed  at  her 
parents'  house,  but  there  is  no  cohabitation,  and  only  con- 
versation and  caresses  pass  between  them.  A  similar  state 
of  affairs  exists  with  the  Western  Papuo-Melanesian 
tribes,  among  several  of  whom  I  conducted  more  or  less 
prolonged  investigations.  These  data,  however,  I  submit 
with  caution,  and  they  are  in  no  way  comparable  to  my 
observations  among  the  Trobrianders.  They  are  based 
entirely  on  statements  obtained  from  informants  ad  hocy 
and  not  on  the  spontaneous  material  which  comes  to  hand 
with  long  residence  in  a  country.^ 

The  love-sick  Trobriander,  however,  taught  by  custom 
to  be  direct  in  amorous  pursuits,  proceeds  at  once  to  the 
approved  methods  of  approach. 

The  simplest  of  these  is  direct  personal  solicitation. 
From  previous  descriptions  of  sexual  licence,  we  know 
that  there  are  numerous  opportunities  for  a  boy  to  express 
his  desire,  or  for  a  girl  to  induce  him  to  do  so  (see  ch.  ix). 
This  is  perfectly  easy  within  the  same  village  community. 


Australia,  1915,  pp.  559-64,  and  the  references  there  given 

Seligman,  op.  cit. 



When  the  two  belong  to  different  villages,  certain  fes- 
tivals bring  them  together  j  they  can  speak  to  each  other, 
and  indulge  in  the  preliminaries  of  love  during  games 
and  dances,  and  in  crowds  j  also  they  can  arrange  a  future 
meeting.  After  that,  by  the  ulatile  and  katuyausi  cus- 
toms, the  meetings  can  be  repeated,  or  one  of  the  lovers 
may  move  to  the  other's  village. 

Another  method  is  that  of  solicitation  by  an  interme- 
diary {kaykivt).  This  is  used  when  the  two  communities 
are  distant  and,  owing  to  the  season,  no  personal  approach 
is  possible.  A  mutual  friend,  male  or  female,  is  begged 
to  express  the  boy's  admiration  and  to  arrange  for  a  ren- 
dezvous. The  kaykivi  is  not,  as  a  rule,  lightly  set  in  mo- 
tion, for  its  failure,  if  this  becomes  public,  draws  down 
considerable  ridicule  on  the  solicitor.  But  if  direct  ap- 
proach and  the  kaykivi  are  both  for  some  reason  impos- 
sible, the  lover  uses  the  most  powerful  way  of  wooing, 
that  of  magic,  as  the  first  step  in  his  attack.  It  is  suffi- 
cient to  say  in  this  place  that  almost  all  final  success  in 
love  is  attributed  to  magic,  that  both  men  and  women  be- 
lieve in  it  deeply  and  trust  it  completely,  and  that,  be- 
cause of  this  psychological  attitude,  it  is  very  efficacious. 
But  a  full  account  of  love  magic  will  be  given  in  the  fol- 
lowing chapter. 

Thus  there  is  nothing  roundabout  in  a  Trobriand  woo- 
ing j  nor  do  they  seek  full  personal  relations,  with  sexual 
possession  only  as  a  consequence.  Simply  and  directly  a 
meeting  is  asked  for  with  the  avowed  intention  of  sexual 
gratification.  If  the  invitation  is  accepted,  the  satisfaction 
of  the  boy's  desire  eliminates  the  romantic  frame  of  mind, 



the  craving  for  the  unattainable  and  mysterious.  If  he  is 
rejected,  there  is  not  much  room  for  personal  tragedy, 
for  he  is  accustomed  from  childhood  to  having  his  sexual 
impulses  thwarted  by  some  girls,  and  he  knows  that  an- 
other intrigue  cures  this  type  of  ill  surely  and  swiftly. 


Though  the  social  code  does  not  favour  romance,  ro- 
mantic elements  and  imaginative  personal  attachments 
are  not  altogether  absent  in  Trobriand  courtship  and 
marriage.  This  will  become  clear  if  we  review  the  three 
phases  of  the  love  life  of  an  individual  discussed  in  chap- 
ter iii.  In  the  easy  erotic  play  of  children,  sympathies 
and  antipathies  arise,  and  personal  preferences  declare 
themselves.  Such  early  sympathetic  attractions  some- 
times strike  quite  deep.  From  several  of  my  friends  I 
learned  that  their  marriage  had  its  roots  in  a  childish  af- 
fection. Tokulubakiki  and  his  wife  knew  and  liked  one 
another  as  children.  Toyodala,  whom  I  saw  in  despair 
after  his  wife's  death,  had  been  a  friend  of  hers  in  child- 
hood (see  ch.  vi,  sec.  4).  Similar  conclusions  can  be 
drawn  from  observation  of  children  and  stories  of  their 
behaviour.  In  a  small  way  they  try  to  win,  to  impress, 
and  to  catch  the  imagination  of  their  playmates.  Thus 
even  at  this  stage  some  elements  of  romance  are  mixed 
with  the  direct  sexuality  of  their  playing. 

At  the  second  stage,  when  boys  and  girls  amuse  them- 
selves freely  with  love-making,  personal  preferences  are 



even  more  pronounced.  They  change  frequently,  but 
their  imagination  and  feelings  are  unquestionably  engaged 
for  the  time  being.  It  is  not  difficult  to  overhear  boys 
discussing  the  beautiful  girls  by  whom  they  are  attracted. 
One  boy  will  praise  his  fancy  while  another  disputes  her 
supremacy  j  and,  in  this  argument,  the  amorous  yearnings 
of  each  will  find  expression. 

As  to  concrete  instances,  it  was  rather  difficult  for  me 
to  collect  any  circumstantial  data  about  either  children  or 
adolescent  boys  or  girls.  But  at  the  later  stage,  where 
attraction  ripens  into  desire  for  marriage  and  matters  are 
treated  much  more  seriously,  I  had  several  opportunities 
for  observation.  The  case  of  Mekala'i,  a  boy  temporarily 
in  my  service,  has  already  been  mentioned  (see  ch.  iv, 
sec.  2).  He  was  seriously  in  love  with  Bodulela,  of 
whom  it  was  notorious  that  she  slept  with  her  stepfather. 
The  boy  was  very  deeply  attached  to  her,  and  though 
there  was  no  chance  for  him  to  possess  her  in  the  imme- 
diate future,  and  he  was  not  even  allowed  to  visit  her, 
for  months  he  nourished  hopes  and  plans  for  ultimately 
winning  her.  He  was  also  obviously  concerned  to  appear 
before  her  as  a  man  of  importance  and  influence.  Another 
boy,  Monakewo,  had  a  liaison  with  Dabugera,  who  be- 
longed to  the  highest  rank.  He  often  bewailed  his  low 
rank,  which  he  knew  would  prevent  his  marriage  with  her 
(see  ch.  iv,  sec.  i).  This  disability  he  tried  to  write  off 
by  personal  achievement.  He  boasted  of  his  fine  voice, 
his  skill  in  dancing,  his  many  abilities — some  of  which 
really  existed — and  how  Dabugera  valued  these.  When 
for  a  few  days  she  was  unfaithful  to  him,  he  would  be 



evidently  mortified  j  and  on  each  of  these  occasions  he 
wanted  to  persuade  me  to  sail  away  from  the  island  and 
take  him  with  me,  at  the  same  time  dwelling  in  imagina- 
tion on  how  greatly  she  would  be  impressed  by  this  deci- 
sive step,  and  on  the  fine  presents  he  would  bring  back 
to  her. 

There  are  also  cases  on  record  where  a  man  wants  to 
marry  a  girl,  does  not  at  first  succeed,  but  after  a  long 
period  of  yearning,  wins  his  first  choice.  Sayabiya,  a 
rather  good-looking  girl,  had  a  lover  from  her  own  vil- 
lage, Yalaka,  whom  she  was  going  to  marry.  Tomeda,  a 
handsome  man  from  Kasana'i,  famous  for  his  strength, 
his  efficiency  in  gardening  and  his  skill  in  dancing,  made 
an  impression  on  her  and  finally  persuaded  her  to  marry 
him.  On  my  first  visit  to  the  Trobriands,  I  used  to  see  a 
great  deal  of  both  of  them,  and  found  her  one  of  the 
really  attractive  women,  and  him  a  very  good  informant. 
When  I  returned,  two  years  later,  he  was  living  alone, 
for  she  had  gone  back  to  her  former  lover  and  married 
him  (see  ch.  v,  sec.  i).  Magic,  of  course,  was  blamed, 
but  unquestionably  it  was  a  return  to  the  first  love.  My 
friend  Tomeda  was  extremely  depressed  for  a  long  time, 
and  used  often  to  speak  to  me  about  his  lost  lady  with 
obvious  longing.  I  left  the  district  and  did  not  see  him 
for  some  six  months,  but  a  few  days  before  sailing  from 
the  Trobriands  I  met  him,  painted  and  adorned  on  his 
way  to  another  village — obviously  in  the  role  of  a  hopeful 
suitor,  a  to^ulaule.  When  I  chaffed  him,  he  confessed 
smiling  that  he  had  a  new  girl  whom  he  was  hoping  to 
marry  soon. 



Another  tangled  amour  was  that  of  Yobukwa'u,  a  son 
of  the  chief  To'uluwa  (see  ch.  iv,  sec.  i,  and  ch.  v,  sec. 
5).  His  sweetheart,  Ilaka'isi,  was  married,  for  reasons  of 
state,  to  his  father,  as  the  youngest  of  some  twenty-four 
wives.  After  this  the  young  man  took  another  girl,  Ise- 
puna,  whom  he  meant  to  marry.  But  he  was  unable  to 
withstand  the  proximity  of  his  former  sweetheart,  and  it 
became  notorious  throughout  Omarakana,  the  chief's  resi- 
dence, that  he  slept  regularly  with  his  father's  youngest 
wife.  This  deeply  offended  his  betrothed.  At  the  same 
time  Yobukwa'u's  younger  brother,  Kalogusa,  returned 
from  a  year's  service  on  an  overseas  plantation.  He  was 
struck  by  his  elder  brother's  betrothed,  Isepuna,  and  an 
attachment  sprang  up  between  them.  The  situation  was 
very  difficult,  for  it  is  an  extremely  bad  thing  to  take 
away  a  brother's  betrothed  from  him.  But  love  was 
stronger  than  moral  considerations.  Isepuna  broke  with 
Yobukwa'u  and  became  engaged  to  Kalogusa.  They  were 
married  a  few  months  after  my  arrival  in  Omarakana.  It 
may  be  added  that  in  the  meantime,  Yobukwa'u  married 
a  very  unattractive  girl,  Losa,  but  gossip  has  it  that  he 
and  Ilaka'isi  are  still  lovers. 

Almost  identical  was  the  story  of  Gilayviyaka,  an  elder 
brother  of  Yobukwa'u  (see  ch.  v,  sec.  5).  He  also  had 
slept  with  Nabwoyuma  before  her  marriage  to  his  father. 
Subsequently  he  married  Bulubwaloga,  a  really  attrac- 
tive lightly  pigmented  brown-haired  woman  from  Yalu- 
mugwa,  to  whom  he  was  deeply  attached.  This,  how- 
ever, did  not  prevent  his  nightly  visits  to  Nabwoyuma. 
His  wife  did  not  relish  these,  and  spied  on  him  3  and  he 



was  caught  one  night  in  flagrante  delicto^  with  the  result 
that  a  very  big  public  scandal  quite  overwhelmed  him. 
He  had  to  leave  the  village  for  some  time,  and  his  wife 
returned  to  her  people.  During  my  stay  in  the  village^ 
a  couple  of  years  after  the  event,  he  made  several  attempts 
to  get  his  wife  back,  and  was  obviously  feeling  his  loss 
keenly.  On  my  last  return  to  the  Trobriands,  I  learned 
that  he  had  signed  on  as  a  plantation  hand,  come  home 
after  a  year,  and  died  a  few  months  before  my  arrival. 
The  hopeless  attachment  of  Ulo  Kadala  has  already  been 
mentioned  (ch.  iv,  sec.  i).  One  case  at  least  of  suicide 
because  of  an  unhappy  love  affair  has  been  given  to  me 
by  the  natives.^ 

In  these  examples  we  find  elements  of  what  we  our- 
selves mean  by  love:  imagination  and  an  attempt  to  woo 
the  heart  through  the  imagination  rather  than  by  a  direct 
appeal  to  the  senses  3  steadfast  preference,  and  repeated 
attempts  at  possession.  In  many  of  them,  there  is  a  pro- 
nounced appreciation  of  the  personality  loved  and  of  its 
power  to  enrich  life  or  leave  it  empty.  These  elements 
certainly  appear  in  unfamiliar  combinations  and  in  a  per- 
spective strange  to  us.  The  attitude  to  sex  is  different, 
and  therefore  certain  characteristic  elements  of  the  West- 
ern sentiment  are  absent.  A  platonic  attachment  would 
be  impossible.  Above  all  most  of  the  personal  initia- 
tive in  wooing  is  replaced  to  a  considerable  extent  by  the 
practice  of  magic.  Such  generalizations  can  only  be  ap- 
proximate, but  the  facts  given  in  this  chapter  and  inci- 
dentally throughout  the  book,  will  enable  the  careful 

1  Cf.  Crime  and  Custom,  p.  95. 



reader  to  gauge  the  differences  between  love  and  love- 
making  in  the  Trobriands  and  in  our  culture. 


There  is  an  interesting  side  to  Trobriand  love  that 
might  either  escape  the  attention  of  the  superficial  ob- 
server, or  give  rise  to  many  misunderstandings.  In  the 
course  of  every  love  affair  the  man  has  constantly  to  give 
small  presents  to  the  woman.  To  the  natives  the  need  of 
one-sided  payment  is  self-evident.  This  custom  implies 
that  sexual  intercourse,  even  where  there  is  mutual  attach- 
ment, is  a  service  rendered  by  the  female  to  the  male. 
As  such  it  has  to  be  repaid  in  accordance  with  the  rule  of 
reciprocity  or  give-and-take,  which  pervades  tribal  life, 
so  that  every  gift,  every  service  and  every  favour  must 
be  paid  by  something  of  equivalent  value.  The  reward 
for  sexual  favours  is  called  huwa^  and  the  word  is  used 
with  the  suffix  of  nearest  possession  {huwagUy  huwaniy 
buwalay  etc.).  This  is  perhaps  merely  a  grammatical 
archaism.  If  not,  it  expresses  an  extremely  close  relation 
between  the  gift  and  both  the  giver  and  the  receiver:  in 
other  words,  that  the  gift  is  an  essential  part  of  the  trans- 
action, as  indeed  it  is. 

This  rule  is  by  no  means  logical  or  self-evident.  Con- 
sidering the  great  freedom  of  women  ,and  their  equality 
with  men  in  all  matters,  especially  that  of  sex,  considering 
also  that  the  natives  fully  realize  that  women  are  as  in- 
clined to  intercourse  as  men,  one  would  expect  the  sexual 



relation  to  be  regarded  as  an  exchange  of  services  in  itself 
reciprocal.  But  custom,  arbitrary  and  inconsequent  here 
as  elsewhere,  decrees  that  it  is  a  service  from  women  to 
men,  and  men  have  to  pay. 

As  to  the  size  and  nature  of  the  gift,  this  varies  with 
the  type  of  sexual  relationship.  As  we  have  seen,  even 
small  boys,  imitating  their  elders  in  every  detail,  will 
give  their  sweethearts  some  small  gift:  a  pinch  of  tobacco, 
a  shell,  or  simply  a  blossom.  Boys  of  riper  years  have 
to  give  a  more  substantial  present:  half  a  stick  of  tobacco, 
a  betel-nut  or  two,  and,  from  time  to  time,  a  turtle-shell 
ring,  a  shell  disc,  or  even  an  armlet.  Otherwise  a  girl 
would  object:  Gala  huwaniy  afaykiy  "You  have  no  pay- 
ment to  give  me — I  refuse."  And  his  reputation  for 
meanness  would  spread,  and  interfere  with  his  future 
conquests.  In  the  later  and  more  permanent  intrigues, 
especially  when  they  grow  towards  marriage,  it  is  usual 
to  give  substantial  presents  from  time  to  time  rather  than 
a  small  gift  every  morning. 

When  marriage  is  concluded,  payment  for  sexual  inter- 
course becomes  the  complicated  family  affair  described  in 
chapter  v,  in  which  husband  and  wife,  their  household 
and  the  wife's  family,  father  and  children,  children  and 
maternal  uncle  are  all  involved.  The  personal  account 
between  husband  and  wife  consists  in  her  offering  him 
permanent  sexual  accommodation,  which  he  repays  by  all 
he  gives  to  the  children  in  love,  care,  and  goods.  The 
children,  as  we  know,  are  regarded  as  legally  hers,  and 
not  his.  The  early  cares  he  bestows  on  the  children,  their 
education,  and  even  his  love  for  them  are  accounted  for 



by  this  obligation.  "The  payment  for  sleeping  with  the 
mother,"  "the  payment  for  sexual  services  of  the  mother" 
and  similar  phrases  are  repeated  when  the  subject  is  dis- 
cussed. Thus  the  commercial  aspect  of  love  also,  and 
very  definitely,  obtains  in  marriage.^ 

It  must,  however,  be  clearly  understood  that  the  word 
"commercial"  is  merely  used  to  describe  the  give-and-take 
principle  in  erotic  relations,  and  that  this  principle  is  here, 
as  in  all  other  social  relations,  but  one,  and  that  not  the 
most  significant,  aspect  of  them.  Above  all,  it  would  be 
entirely  erroneous  to  draw  any  parallel  with  forms  of 
prostitution  in  higher  cultures.  The  essence  of  prostitu- 
tion is  that  payment  is  the  woman's  motive  for  surrender. 
In  the  Trobriands,  love-making  is  as  spontaneous  on  the 
part  of  the  girl  as  on  the  part  of  the  boy.  The  gift  is  a 
custom,  not  a  motive.  The  institution  is  much  more  akin 
to  our  custom  of  giving  presents  to  a  fiancee  or  to  some- 
one whom  we  merely  admire  than  to  the  institution  of 
purely  commercialized  sexual  services,  which  are  the  es- 
sence of  prostitution. 



One  more  question  intimately  concerned  with  the  prob- 
lem of  personal  attraction  remains  to  be  discussed.  Love 
strives  not  only  for  possession  but  for  monopoly  5  hence 
the  strong  emotional  reaction  of  jealousy.     It  has  been 

1  Cf.  Argonauts,  pp.  177,  178,  where  I  have  incorrectly  classed  the 
father's  gifts  to  his  children  as  "free  gifts."  The  rectification  of  this 
error  will  be  found  in  Crime  and  Custom,  pp.  40,  41. 



affirmed  by  several  ethnographers  of  tribes  with  great 
sexual  freedom,  that  jealousy  does  not  exist  among  them. 
In  support  of  this,  nothing  more  is  adduced  than  the 
simple  fact  of  licence.  But  the  connection  between  licence 
and  the  absence  of  jealousy  is  by  no  means  self-evident. 

In  the  Trobriands,  in  spite  of  considerable  licence,  jeal- 
ousy certainly  exists.  A  man  who  desires  a  girl  will  not 
easily  give  way  to  a  rival,  as  the  frequent  quarrels  and 
fights  occasioned  by  sexual  rivalry  bear  witness.  Nor  will 
a  man  who  has  established  some  rights  over  a  woman, 
whether  of  marriage  or  of  engagement,  or  merely  of  a 
liaison,  tolerate  any  infringement  of  these.  There  exists 
among  them,  in  fact,  both  the  jealousy  of  passion  and 
that  colder  type  based  on  ambition,  power,  and  possession. 
As  we  know,  relations  within  the  hukumatula  (bachelors' 
and  unmarried  girls'  house)  are  subject  to  a  definite  code, 
and  the  infringement  of  individual  rights  is  deeply  re- 
sented and  considered  reprehensible.  As  we  also  know, 
adultery  is  a  grave  offence,  punishable  even  by  death. 
Among  young  boys  and  girls  serious  enmities  and  fights 
have  been  known  to  arise  from  one  encroaching  on  the 
preserves  of  another,  and  even  among  children,  fights  are 
occasioned  by  jealousy. 

This  passion,  however,  is,  as  are  all  others,  susceptible 
to  social  influence.  When  custom  demands  that  a  man 
should  surrender  his  sweetheart,  and  this  can  be  honour- 
ably done,  he  will  submit.  This  happens,  as  we  know,  in 
the  case  of  visiting  kula  strangers,  and  of  youths  who  are 
guests  in  a  village  where  a  death  has  recently  occurred. 
Also,  there  are  occasions,  less  readily  condoned,  where 



girls  go  on  a  katuyausi  or  steal  out  of  the  village  to  meet 
an  ulatile  party. 

I  was  impressed  by  what  might  be  called  the  reverse 
side  of  j  ealousy.  The  way  in  which  boys  would  complain 
to  me  about  such  custom-sanctioned  defection  j  the  way 
in  which  they  dwelt  on  the  subject  and  described  it  with 
apparent  depression,  but  not  without  some  morbid  curi- 
osity 3  and  the  insistence  with  which  they  would  return 
to  itj  gave  me  the  impression  that  there  was  for  them 
some  element  of  pleasurable  excitement  in  the  situation. 
Whether  jealousy  among  the  Trobrianders  is  an  emotion 
with  two  almost  directly  contradictory  feeling-tones  which 
alternate,  the  one  strongly  unpleasant,  and  the  other 
somewhat  pleasurable  and  sexually  stimulating,  it  is  diffi- 
cult to  say.  But  one  or  two  facts  as  to  the  relation  be- 
tween native  women  and  white  men  throw  additional 
light  on  the  subject. 

Thus  it  is  a  notorious  fact  that  Sinakadi,  an  important 
but  impecunious  chief  of  Sinaketa,  prostitutes  his  wives  to 
white  men.  He  is  old  now,  and  is  said  to  have  married 
a  young  girl  specially  for  this  purpose  j  but  he  began  the 
practice  long  ago,  according  to  common  report,  even  be- 
fore a  government  station  was  established  on  the  Tro- 
briands.  One  of  his  sons,  now  a  young  man,  is  doing 
exactly  the  same  thing.  A  white  trader  told  me  that  he 
knew  a  native  who  seemed  very  much  attached  to  and 
extremely  jealous  of  his  comely  young  wife.  This  native 
used  to  procure  girls  for  the  trader.  On  one  occasion 
when  he  was  unable  to  find  anyone  else,  he  brought  his 
wife,  and  waited  for  her  on  the  doorstep.     Such  facts 


throw  an  interesting  side-light  on  the  working  o£  jealousy 
in  these  natives. 

The  social,  cultural,  and  directly  emotional  motives  in 
jealousy  will  be  more  easily  isolated  by  distinguishing  its 
several  types  with  their  corresponding  sanctions.  In  the 
first  place  there  is  jealousy  which  springs  from  infringe- 
ment of  rights  rather  than  from  thwarted  instincts  or 
wounded  feeling.  The  taboo  on  the  chief's  wives  is  an 
example,  and  in  former  times  was  extremely  strict.  Even 
in  the  case  of  a  very  old  man,  who  was  neither  attached 
to  his  young  wives  nor  even  living  with  them,  adultery 
would  constitute  a  capital  offence.  The  misconduct  of 
To'uluwa's  wives  with  his  sons,  a  case  in  point  already 
quoted,  and  the  adultery  of  the  wife  of  M'tabalu,  would 
never  have  been  condoned  in  the  old  days.  But  even  the 
wife  of  a  commoner,  if  caught  in  fiagrantey  might  have 
been  killed  with  her  lover.  This  kind  of  jealousy,  arising 
from  purely  social  considerations,  is  also  expressed  in  the 
close  watch  kept  over  the  widow  by  the  dead  man's  rela- 

In  the  second  place  there  is  the  jealous  resentment  of 
infidelities  which  interfere  with  a  permanent  relation. 
This  emotional  reaction  is  present,  together  with  the 
social  one,  in  the  concrete  instances  quoted  in  the  fore- 
going paragraph. 

Finally  there  is  the  pure  sexual  jealousy  from  tfiwarted 
impulse  or  desire  which  will  impel  a  man  or  a  boy  to 
violent  and  vindictive  actions. 




We  know  by  now  how  a  Trobriand  girl  and  boy  are 
first  attracted  to  each  other,  how  they  come  together,  how 
their  intrigue  develops,  leading  to  separation  or  marriage  j 
but  we  know  little  as  yet  o£  the  way  in  which  two  lovers 
spend  their  time  together  and  enjoy  each  other's  presence. 

In  this  as  in  all  other  aspects  of  Melanesian  tribal  life, 
custom  and  convention  dictate  to  a  large  extent  even  the 
details  of  behaviour.  Individual  deviations  always  exist, 
but  they  fall  within  a  relatively  narrow  range  j  much  nar- 
rower unquestionably  than  at  our  own  culture  level.  A 
lover  does  not  expect  from  his  or  her  partner  the  improvi- 
sation of  a  love  rhapsody,  but  rather  a  properly  executed 
repetition  of  traditional  routine.  The  places  in  which  it 
is  desirable  to  make  love,  the  manner  of  making  it,  the 
very  types  of  caress,  are  defined  by  tradition.  Independ- 
ent informants  would  describe  exactly  the  same  procedure 
almost  in  the  same  words. 

The  word  kwakwadu  is  a  technical  term  which  signifies 
something  like  "amorous  transactions"  or  "being  together 
for  purposes  of  love."  It  would  be  easier  perhaps  to 
express  it  in  German,  as  erotisches  Belsamtnenselnj  or  by 
the  American  colloquialism  "petting  party"  or  "petting 
session."  English  speech  habits  are,  unfortunately,  re- 
fractory to  stereotyped  terminology,  except  in  matters  of 
morality.    The  kwakwadu  has  a  wide  meaning.     It  sig- 


nifies  a  collective  excursion,  or  party  of  several  couples 
setting  out  on  a  love  picnic  3  the  being  together  of  two  peo- 
ple who  are  in  love  with  each  other — a  sort  of  erotic  tete- 
a-tete;  the  caresses  and  approaches  before  the  final  union. 
It  is  never  used  euphemistically  to  designate  the  sexual 
act.  At  a  collective  picnic  some  of  the  games  described 
in  the  previous  chapter  are  first  played  in  common,  and 
afterwards  the  lovers  seek  solitude  two  by  two.  We  shall 
attempt  to  reconstruct  the  behaviour  of  a  pair  who  have 
left  such  a  party,  or  else  started  off  alone  in  order  to  enjoy 
each  other's  company  in  some  favourite  spot. 

The  scrub  surrounding  the  village,  which  is  periodically 
cut  for  gardens,  grows  in  a  dense  underbrush  and  does  not 
everywhere  offer  a  desirable  resting  place.  Here  and 
there,  however,  a  large  tree,  such  as  the  butiay  is  left  be- 
hind for  the  sake  of  its  perfumed  flowers,  or  there  may 
be  a  group  of  pandanus  trees.  Pleasant  shady  places,  too, 
can  be  found  under  an  old  tree  in  one  of  the  groves  which 
often  mark  the  site  of  a  deserted  village,  whose  fruit 
trees,  coco-nut  palms,  and  big  banyans  make  an  oasis 
within  the  stunted  tropical  undergrowth  of  recent  culti- 
vation. On  the  coral  ridge  {rayhwag)  many  spots  invite 
a  picnic  party.  Cavities  and  hollows  in  the  coral,  rocks  of 
queer  or  attractive  shape,  giant  trees,  thickets  of  fern, 
flowering  hibiscus  make  the  rayhwag  a  mysterious  and 
attractive  region.  Especially  delightful  is  the  part  which 
overlooks  the  open  sea  towards  the  east,  towards  the 
islands  of  Kitava,  Iwa,  and  Gawa.  The  roar  of  the 
breakers  on  the  fringing  reef,  the  dazzling  sand  and  foam 
and  the  blue  sea,  provide  the  favourite  surroundings  for 



native  love-making,  and  also  constitute  the  scene  in  which 
the  mythical  drama  of  incestuous  love  has  been  laid  by 
native  imagination  (see  ch.  xiv). 

In  such  places  the  lovers  enjoy  the  scent  and  colour  o£ 
the  flowers,  they  watch  the  birds  and  insects,  and  go  down 
to  the  beach  to  bathe.  In  the  heat  of  the  day,  or  during 
the  hot  seasons,  they  search  for  shady  spots  on  the  coral 
ridge,  for  water-holes  and  for  bathing  places.  As  the 
cool  of  the  evening  approaches  they  warm  themselves  on 
the  hot  sand,  or  kindle  a  fire,  or  find  shelter  in  some  nook 
among  the  coral  rocks.  They  amuse  themselves  by  col- 
lecting shells  and  picking  flowers  or  scented  herbs,  to 
adorn  themselves.  Also  they  smoke  tobacco,  chew  betel- 
nut,  and,  when  they  are  thirsty,  look  for  a  coco-nut  palm, 
the  green  nut  of  which  yields  a  cooling  drink.  They  in- 
spect each  other's  hair  for  lice  and  eat  them — a  practice 
disgusting  to  us  and  ill  associated  with  love-making,  but 
to  the  natives  a  natural  and  pleasant  occupation  between 
two  who  are  fond  of  each  other,  and  a  favourite  pastime 
with  children  (pi.  70).  On  the  other  hand,  they  would 
never  eat  heavy  food  on  such  occasions  and  especially 
would  never  carry  it  with  them  from  the  village.  To 
them  the  idea  of  European  boys  and  girls  going  out  for  a 
picnic  with  a  knapsack  full  of  eatables  is  as  disgusting  and 
indecent  as  their  kwakwadu  would  be  to  a  Puritan  in  our 
society  (see  also  ch.  iii,  sec.  4). 

All  such  pleasures — the  enjoyment  of  landscape,  of 
colour  and  scent  in  the  open  air,  of  wide  views  and  of 
intimate  corners  of  nature — are  essential  features  in  their 
love-making.    For  hours,  sometimes  for  days,  lovers  will 



go  out  together  gathering  fruits  and  berries  for  food  and 
enjoying  each  other's  company  in  beautiful  surroundings. 
I  made  a  point  of  confirming  these  particulars  from  a 
number  of  concrete  instances  3  for,  in  connection  with  the 
question  of  romantic  love  already  discussed,  I  was  inter- 
ested to  know  whether  love-making  had  direct  satisfaction 
only  for  its  object,  or  whether  it  embraced  a  wider  sen- 
sory and  aesthetic  enjoyment.  Many  of  the  pleasures 
which  enter  into  general  games,  amusements,  and  festivi- 
ties, also  form  part  of  personal  kwakwadu. 

Of  course,  love  is  not  made  only  in  the  open  air;  there 
are  also  special  occasions  for  bringing  lovers  together  in 
the  village.  In  chapter  iii,  the  special  institution  of  the 
bukwmatula  and  the  more  provisional  arrangements  of 
younger  people  have  been  mentioned.  In  the  village, 
however,  privacy  is  almost  impossible  except  at  night,  and 
the  activities  of  lovers  are  much  more  curtailed.  They 
lie  next  to  each  other  on  a  bunk  and  talk,  and  when  they 
are  tired  of  this,  proceed  to  make  love. 



It  is  not  easy  to  reconstruct  personal  conversations 
which  in  their  nature  take  place  under  very  intimate  con- 
ditions and  without  witnesses.  A  question  couched  in 
such  general  terms  as  "What  do  a  boy  and  a  girl  talk  to 
each  other  about  at  a  kwakwadu?^^  is  likely  to  be  answered 
by  a  grin,  or,  if  the  man  is  familiar  with  the  ethnographer, 
by  the  standard  reply  to  all  difficult  questions:  Tonagowa 



yokuy^^you  fool"  5  in  other  words,  "Don't  ask  silly  ques- 

From  the  spontaneous  confidences  of  some  of  my 
friends,  however,  I  obtained  some  glimpses  into  what 
passes  during  these  tete-a-tetes,  A  boy  would  often  re- 
peat, for  the  sake  of  impressing  me  or  just  to  give  me 
some  definite  news,  what  a  girl  told  him  and  what  he  re- 
plied, or  vice  versa.  There  is  no  doubt  that  the  Trobriand 
lover  boasts  freely  to  his  sweetheart  and  expects  a  sym- 
pathetic listener  and  an  enthusiastic  response.  I  have  al- 
ready mentioned  how  Monakewo  used  to  tell  me  of  the 
great  impression  he  had  made  on  Dabugera  and  how 
greatly  she  admired  his  exploits  and  virtues.  Mekala'i 
was  equally  certain  that  Bodulela  was  deeply  impressed 
by  any  achievements  which  he  related  to  her.  Gomaya, 
a  young  chief  of  Sinaketa  and  an  incurable  braggart, 
would  tell  me  how  his  betrothed,  to  whom  he  was 
plighted  in  infancy,  would  wonder  at  his  stories  of  per- 
sonal excellence,  of  magical  knowledge  and  of  overseas 
adventure.  In  fact,  whenever  a  Trobriander  went  into 
details  about  his  love  affairs,  the  impression  made  on  his 
mistress  would  never  be  absent  from  his  account,  and 
would  be  related  to  me,  in  native  fashion,  as  fragments 
of  an  actual  conversation. 

Gossip  about  other  people's  business,  and  especially 
about  their  love  affairs,  is  also  a  common  subject  of  con- 
versation between  two  lovers  5  and  on  many  occasions 
much  of  it  ultimately  came  my  way,  in  that  a  boy  would 
repeat  what  he  had  heard  from  his  sweetheart.  For  the 
rest,  they  talk  of  what  they  are  doing  at  that  moment,  the 



beauties  of  nature,  and  of  the  things  they  like  or  do  not 
like.  Sometimes,  too,  a  boy  will  vaunt  his  exploits  in  those 
pursuits  in  which  women  do  not  usually  participate,  such 
as  kula  expeditions,  fishing,  bird-snaring,  or  hunting. 

Thus  a  love  affair  may  be  set  in  a  rich  context  of 
general  interest,  as  regards  both  mutual  activity  and  con- 
versation j  but  this  varies  with  the  intelligence  and  the 
personality  of  the  partners.  Ambitious,  imaginative  people 
would  not  be  content  with  mere  sensuous  pleasure  j  but 
the  obtuse  and  limited  would  proceed  no  doubt,  directly 
to  the  cruder  stages — ^the  usual  caresses  and  the  sexual  act. 



The  place  occupied  by  the  kiss  in  South  Sea  communi- 
ties is  of  general  and  perennial  interest.  It  is  a  widely 
prevalent  opinion  that  kissing  is  not  practised  outside  the 
Indo-European  horizon.  Students  of  anthropology,  as 
well  as  frequenters  of  comic  opera,  know  that  even  in 
such  high  civilizations  as  those  of  China  and  Japan  the 
kiss  as  a  gesture  in  the  art  of  love  is  unknown.  A  Euro- 
pean shudders  at  the  idea  of  such  cultural  deficiency. 
For  his  comfort,  it  may  be  said  at  once  that  things  are  not 
so  black  as  they  look. 

To  get  at  the  facts  and  to  see  these  in  their  right  per- 
spective, the  question  must  first  be  put  more  precisely. 
If  we  ask  whether  lip-activities  play  any  part  in  love- 
making,  the  answer  is  that  they  certainly  do.  As  we  shall 
see,  both  in  the  preliminary  caresses  and  in  the  later 



stages,  the  mouth  is  busy.  On  the  other  hand,  if  we 
define  kissing  more  precisely  as  a  prolonged  pressing  of 
mouth  against  mouth  with  slight  intermittent  movements 
^and  I  think  that  all  competent  authorities  would  agree 
with  such  a  definition  and  with  the  proposition  that  this 
is  the  main  erotic  preliminary  in  Europe  and  the  United 
States — then  the  kiss  is  not  used  in  Trobriand  love-mak- 
ing. Certainly  it  never  forms  a  self-contained  independ- 
ent source  of  pleasure,  nor  is  it  a  definite  preliminary  stage 
of  love-making,  as  is  the  case  with  us.  This  caress  was 
never  spontaneously  mentioned  by  the  natives,  and,  to 
direct  inquiries,  I  always  received  a  negative  answer.  The 
natives  know,  however,  that  white  people  "will  sit,  will 
press  mouth  against  mouth — they  are  pleased  with  it." 
But  they  regard  it  as  a  rather  insipid  and  silly  form  of 

Kissing  in  the  narrow  sense  is  also  absent  as  a  cultural 
symbol,  whether  as  a  greeting,  an  expression  of  affection, 
or  a  magical  or  ritual  act.  The  rubbing  of  noses  (vayauli) 
as  an  act  of  greeting  is  rare,  and  never  done  except  be- 
tween very  near  relatives  j  it  is  said  that  parents  and  chil- 
dren or  husband  and  wife  would  thus  celebrate  their  re- 
union after  long  separation.  A  mother  who  is  constantly 
petting  her  small  child,  will  frequently  touch  it  with  her 
cheek  or  her  lips  j  she  will  breathe  upon  it,  or,  putting  her 
open  mouth  against  its  skin,  caress  it  gently.  But  the 
exact  technique  of  kissing  is  not  used  between  mother  and 
child,  and  in  no  form  is  it  so  conspicuous  with  them  as 
with  us. 

The  absence  of  kissing  in  the  narrower  sense  brings  us 



to  a  deeper  difference  in  love-making.  The  natives,  I 
am  convinced,  never  indulge  in  erotic  caresses  as  a  self- 
sufficient  activity  j  that  is,  as  a  stage  in  love-making  which 
covers  a  long  period  of  time  before  full  bodily  union  is 
accomplished.  This  is  a  local  and  not  a  racial  character, 
for  I  am  equally  convinced  (see  above)  that  among  other 
Melanesians,  in  Dobu  and  probably  among  the  Motu,  in 
the  Sinaugolo  and  Mailu  tribes,  engaged  couples  do  meet, 
lie  together,  and  caress  each  other  without  cohabitation. 

The  comparison,  however,  cannot  be  satisfactory,  for 
my  knowledge  of  the  latter  tribes  is  much  less  complete 
than  in  the  case  of  the  Trobriands,  and  so  I  can  only  sug- 
gest a  subject  for  further  research.  It  is  extremely  im- 
portant to  know  whether  the  nature  of  preliminary  love 
is  correlated  with  the  level  of  culture,  or  with  the  social 
regulation  of  it — above  all,  with  the  moral  restrictions 
condemning  prenuptial  intercourse. 

We  have  spoken  rather  fully  about  kissing,  to  satisfy 
a  general  curiosity  on  this  point.  Let  us  now  observe  the 
behaviour  of  two  lovers  alone  on  their  bunk  in  the  huku- 
matulay  or  in  a  secluded  spot  in  the  rayhwag  or  jungle. 
A  mat  is  usually  spread  on  the  boards  or  on  the  earth, 
and,  when  they  are  sure  of  not  being  observed,  skirt  and 
pubic  leaf  are  removed.  They  may  at  first  sit  or  lie  side 
by  side,  caressing  each  other,  their  hands  roaming  over  the 
surface  of  the  skin.  Sometimes  they  will  lie  close  to- 
gether, their  arms  and  legs  enlaced.  In  such  a  position 
they  may  talk  for  a  long  time,  confessing  their  love  with 
endearing  phrases,  or  teasing  each  other  (katudabumd) . 
So  near  to  each  other,  they  will  rub  noses.    But  though 


there  is  a  good  deal  of  nose-rubbing,  cheek  is  also  rubbed 
against  cheek,  and  mouth  against  mouth.  Gradually  the 
caress  becomes  more  passionate,  and  then  the  mouth  is 
predominantly  active  5  the  tongue  is  sucked,  and  tongue  is 
rubbed  against  tongue  j  they  suck  each  other's  lower  lips, 
and  the  lips  will  be  bitten  till  blood  comes  j  the  saliva  is 
allowed  to  flow  from  mouth  to  mouth.  The  teeth  are 
used  freely,  to  bite  the  cheek,  to  snap  at  the  nose  and 
chin.  Or  the  lovers  plunge  their  hands  into  the  thick 
mop  of  each  other's  hair  and  tease  it  or  even  tear  it.  In 
the  formulas  of  love  magic,  which  here  as  elsewhere 
abound  in  over-graphic  exaggeration,  the  expressions, 
"drink  my  blood"  and  "pull  out  my  hair"  are  frequently 
used  (see  next  chapter).  This  sentence,  volunteered  by 
a  girl's  sweetheart,  describes  his  erotic  passion: 

Binunu       vivila     dubilibaloday  bigadi; 

She  sucks  woman  lower  lip  (ours),  she  bites 3 
tagiyu     bimwam. 
we  spit,  she  drinks. 

Erotic  scratches  are  an  even  more  direct  way  of  hurt- 
ing and  of  drawing  blood.  We  have  already  spoken  of 
these  as  the  conventional  invitation  of  a  girl  to  a  boy.  We 
also  described  their  place  in  tribal  festivities  (ch.  ix,  sec. 
5).  But  they  are  also  a  part  of  intimate  love-making, 
and  a  mutual  expression  of  passion: 

Tayobobuy       tavayauUy  takenu  deli; 

We  embrace,  we  rub  noses,  we  lie  together  5 



bikimali         vivila     otuhwaloday        ovilavada 

she  scratches  woman  on  back  (ours),  on  shoulders  (ours)  5 

sene  bwoynciy  tanukwaliy        bitagwalayda 

very  much  good,  we  know,         she  loves  us 


very  much  indeed. 

On  the  whole,  I  think  that  in  the  rough  usage  of  pas- 
sion the  woman  is  the  more  active.  I  have  seen  far  larger 
scratches  and  marks  on  men  than  on  women  j  and  only 
women  may  actually  lacerate  their  lovers  as  in  the  case 
mentioned  in  chapter  ix,  section  5.  The  scratching  is  car- 
ried even  into  the  passionate  phases  of  intercourse.  It  is 
a  great  jest  in  the  Trobriands  to  look  at  the  back  of  a 
man  or  a  girl  for  the  hall-marks  of  success  in  amorous 
life.  Nor  have  I  ever  seen  a  comely  girl  or  boy  without 
some  traces  of  kimali  in  the  proper  places.  Subject  to 
general  rules  of  good  taste  and  specific  taboo  (see  ch.  xiii), 
the  kimali  marks  are  a  favourite  subject  for  jokes 5  but 
there  is  also  much  secret  pride  in  their  possession. 

Another  element  in  love-making,  for  which  the  average 
European  would  show  even  less  understanding  than  for 
the  kimaliy  is  the  mitakukuy  the  biting  off  of  eyelashes. 
As  far  as  I  could  judge  from  descriptions  and  demonstra- 
tions, a  lover  will  tenderly  or  passionately  bend  over  his 
mistress's  eyes  and  bite  oflF  the  tip  of  her  eyelashes.  This, 
I  was  told,  is  done  in  orgasm  as  well  as  in  the  less  pas- 
sionate preliminary  stages.  I  was  never  quite  able  to 
grasp  either  the  mechanism  or  the  sensuous  value  of  this 
caress.    I  have  no  doubt,  however,  as  to  its  reality,  for  I 



have  not  seen  one  boy  or  girl  in  the  Trobriands  with  the 
long  eyelashes  to  which  they  are  entitled  by  nature.  In 
any  case,  it  shows  that  the  eye  to  them  is  an  object  of 
active  bodily  interest.  Still  less  enthusiasm  will  probably 
be  felt  by  the  romantic  European  towards  the  already 
mentioned  custom  of  catching  each  other's  lice  and  eating 
them.  To  the  natives,  however,  it  is  a  pastime,  which, 
while  pleasant  in  itself,  also  establishes  an  exquisite  sense 
of  intimacy. 



The  following  is  a  condensed  description  of  the  whole 
process  of  love-making,  with  several  characteristic  inci- 
dents, given  me  by  my  friend  Monakewo: 

Takwakwadu:     dakova^    kadiyaguma^ 
We  make  love:  our  fire,  our  lime  gourd, 
kaditafwaki:       kada  galay     mwasila.    Bkala, 

our  tobacco 3  food  (ours)  no,  shame.  We  go, 
tala  kaytala  ka^t      kayviava;     tasisu, 

we  go  (for)  one  (wood)  tree  tree  bigj  we  sit, 
takakakutu;  taluki  vivila: 

we  louse  and  eatj  we  tell  to  woman: 

^Hakayta?^  BvuookwOy 

"we  copulate"  (let  us  copulate).  It  is  finished, 

bit  old       ovalu;  ovalu  tola  obukumatulay 

we  go      to  village  3      in  village      we  go      to  bachelors' 




takenu  tabigatona,              Kidama  kadumwaletay 

we  lie,  we  chatter.             Supposing  we  are  alone, 

taltku            yaviday                     biliku  dabela 

we  undo      pubic  leaf  ours      she  undoes  skirt  (hers) 


we  sleep. 

This  may  be  freely  rendered:  "When  we  go  on  a  love- 
making  expedition  we  light  our  firej  we  take  our  lime 
gourd  (and  chew  betel-nut),  we  take  our  tobacco  (and 
smoke  it).  Food  we  do  not  take,  we  would  be  ashamed 
to  do  so.  We  walk,  we  arrive  at  a  large  tree,  we  sit  down, 
we  search  each  other's  heads  and  consume  the  lice,  we  tell 
the  woman  that  we  want  to  copulate.  After  it  is  over  we 
return  to  the  village.  In  the  village  we  go  to  the  bach- 
elors' house,  lie  down,  and  chatter.  When  we  are  alone 
he  takes  off  the  pubic  leaf,  she  takes  off  her  fibre  skirt: 
we  go  to  sleep." 

With  regard  to  the  act  itself,  perhaps  the  most  note- 
worthy feature  is  the  position. 

The  woman  lies  on  her  back,  the  legs  spread  and 
raised,  and  the  knees  flexed.  The  man  kneels  against  her 
buttocks,  her  legs  resting  on  his  hips.  The  more  usual 
position,  however,  is  for  the  man  to  squat  in  front  of  the 
woman  and,  with  his  hands  resting  on  the  ground,  to  move 
towards  her  or,  taking  hold  of  her  legs,  to  pull  her  to- 
wards him.  When  the  sexual  organs  are  close  to  each 
other  the  insertion  takes  place.  Again  the  woman  may 
stretch  her  legs  and  place  them  directly  on  the  man's  hips, 
with  his  arms  outside  them,  but  the  far  more  usual  posi- 



tion  is  with  her  legs  embracing  the  man's  arms,  and  rest- 
ing  on  the  elbows. 

An  interesting  text  gives  the  description  of  both 

Kidama       vivila     skana  ikanufwagega; 

Supposing  woman  a  little  bit  she  lies  open  (-legged) ; 
kaykela  bima  ogifomada. 

legs  hers  it  comes  on  our  hips. 

Kidama      ikanufwagega  senelay 

Supposing  she  lies  open  (-legged)  very  much  indeed, 
ikanuheyayay  kaykela  bima  o 

she  lies  right  open,  leg  hers  it  comes  on 

fmtutugu  kaylavast. 
end  mine  elbow. 

Which  may  be  rendered: 

"When  the  woman  opens  her  legs  only  a  little,  her  legs 
come  (i.e.  rest)  on  my  hipsj  when  she  lies  with  legs 
spread  out  very  much,  lies  right  open,  her  legs  rest  on 
my  elbows." 

Congress  is  sometimes  effected  in  a  reclining  position. 
Lying  side  by  side,  with  the  lower  limbs  pressed  against 
each  other,  the  woman  places  her  upper  leg  on  top  of  the 
man,  and  the  insertion  is  made.  This  mode,  which  is  less 
popular,  is  used  at  night  in  the  bukumatula  (bachelors' 
house).  It  is  less  noisy,  as  the  natives  say,  and  requires 
less  space  J  and  is  done  in  order  not  to  wake  up  the  other 
inmates  of  the  house  (see  ch.  iii,  sec.  4). 

No  other  positions  are  used.     Above  all,  the  natives 



despise  the  European  position  and  consider  it  unpractical 
and  improper.  The  natives,  of  course,  know  it,  because 
white  men  frequently  cohabit  with  native  women,  some, 
even  being  married  to  them.  But,  as  they  say:  "The  man 
overlies  heavily  the  woman  5  he  presses  her  heavily  down- 
wards, she  cannot  respond  {ibilamafu)  ^'^ 

Altogether  the  natives  are  certain  that  white  men  do 
not  know  how  to  carry  out  intercourse  eflFectively.  As  a 
matter  of  fact,  it  is  one  of  the  special  accomplishments  of 
native  cook-boys  and  servants  who  have  been  for  some 
time  in  the  emplo3^  of  white  traders,  planters,  or  officials, 
to  imitate  the  copulatory  methods  of  their  masters.  In 
the  Trobriands,  Gomaya  was  perhaps  the  best  actor  in 
this  respect.  He  still  remembered  a  famous  Greek  buc- 
caneer (Nicholas  Minister  was  the  name  he  went  by 
among  other  beachcombers),  who  had  lived  in  the  islands 
even  before  the  establishment  of  the  government  station. 
Gomaya's  performance  consisted  in  the  imitation  of  a  very 
clumsy  reclining  position,  and  in  the  execution  of  a  few 
sketchy  and  flabby  movements.  In  this  the  brevity  and 
lack  of  vigour  of  the  European  performance  were  carica- 
tured. Indeed,  to  the  native  idea,  the  white  man  achieves 
orgasm  far  too  quickly;  and  there  seems  to  be  no  doubt 
that  the  Melanesian  takes  a  much  longer  time  and  em- 
ploys a  much  greater  amount  of  mechanical  energy  to 
reach  the  same  result.  This,  together  with  the  handicap 
of  the  unfamiliar  position,  probably  accounts  for  the  com- 
plaints of  white  men  that  native  girls  are  not  responsive. 
Many  a  white  informant  has  spoken  to  me  about  perhaps 
the  only  word  in  the  native  language  which  he  ever 


learned,  kubilahda  ("move  on  horizontally")?  repeated 
to  him  with  some  intensity  during  the  sexual  act.  This 
verb  defines  the  horizontal  motion  during  sexual  inter- 
course, which  should  be  mutual.  The  noun  hllahalay 
originally  means  a  horizontally  lying  logj  and  hala  as  a 
root  or  prefix,  conveys  a  general  sense  of  the  horizontal. 
But  the  Ya:hybilabalay  does  not  convey  the  immobility  of 
a  log  5  on  the  contrary,  it  gives  the  idea  of  horizontal 
motion.  The  natives  regard  the  squatting  position  as 
more  advantageous,  both  because  the  man  is  freer  to  move 
than  when  kneeling,  and  because  the  woman  is  less  ham- 
pered in  her  responsive  movements — bilafnafu — a  com- 
pound of  bilay  from  balay  horizontal,  and  mafUy  repay  or 
respond.  Also  in  the  squatting  position  the  man  can  per- 
form the  treading  motion  {mtumuta)^  which  is  a  useful 
dynamic  element  in  successful  copulation.  Another  word, 
korikikilay  implies  at  the  same  time  rubbing  and  pushing, 
a  copulatory  motion. 

As  the  act  proceeds  and  the  movements  become  more 
energetic,  the  man,  I  was  told,  waits  until  the  woman  is 
ready  for  orgasm.  Then  he  presses  his  face  to  the 
woman's,  embraces  her  body  and  raises  it  towards  him, 
she  putting  her  arms  round  him  at  the  same  time  and,  as 
a  rule,  digging  her  nails  into  his  skin.  The  expression 
for  orgasm  is  ififisi  momona  ==  the  seminal  fluid  dis- 
charges. The  word  momona  signifies  both  the  male  and 
the  female  discharge  j  as  we  know,  the  natives  do  not 
make  any  sharp  distinction  between  male  semen  and  the 
glandular  secretions  of  a  woman,  at  least,  not  as  regards 
their   respective   functions.      The   same   expression   ipsi 



momona  is  also  applied  to  (male  or  female)  nocturnal 
pollution.  The  word  for  onanistic  ejaculation  is  isulu- 
momoniy  "it  boils  over  sexual  fluid."  Male  masturbation 
is  called  ikivayli  kwila — "he  manipulates  penis"  j  female 
masturbation  is  described  in  concrete  phrases  and  has  no 
specific  name. 

An  interesting  personal  account  was  given  to  me  by 
Monakewo  and  illustrates  some  of  the  points  just  men- 
tioned. It  was  hardly  discreet  of  him  to  speak  of  his  mis- 
tress by  namej  but  the  ethnographer's  love  for  the  con- 
crete instance  may  excuse  my  not  emending  it. 

Bamasisi  deli  Dabugera;  hayohohuy 

I    sleep    together         Dabugera  5  I    embrace, 

bavakayla  havayauU,  Tanunu  dubilihaloday 

I  hug  all  length,  I  rub  noses.  We  suck  lower  lips  ours, 
fela       bi^ulugwalayda;  mayela        tanunu; 

because  we  feel  excited  5  tongue  his  we  suckj 

tagadl         kabulula;        tagadl         kola   gabula;    tagadl 
we  bite       nose  his  5       we  bite       his      chin  5       we  bite 
kimwala;  takabi  fosigalay 

jaw  (cheek)  his 5  we  take  hold  (caress)  armpit  his, 
visiyala,  Bilivala         minana:  "O  didakwani, 

groin  his.        She  says        this  woman:        "O  it  itches, 
lubaygUy  senela;  kworikikila 

lover  mine,  very  much  indeed  j  rub  and  push 

tuvaylay  bilukwali  wowogu — 

again,  it  feels  pleasant  body  mine — 



kwofmavlyakay  nanakwa  hififisi 

do  it  vigorously,  quick  (so  that)  it  squirts 

momona: —         kwalimtufnutu  tuvayla  hilukwali 
sexual  fluid; —    tread  again       it  feels  pleasant 

body  mine." 

Free  Translation 

"When  I  sleep  with  Dabugera  I  embrace  her,  I  hug 
her  with  my  whole  body,  I  rub  noses  with  her.  We  suck 
each  other's  lower  lip,  so  that  we  are  stirred  to  passion. 
We  suck  each  other's  tongues,  we  bite  each  other's  noses, 
we  bite  each  other's  chins,  we  bite  cheeks  and  caress  the 
armpit  and  the  groin.  Then  she  will  say:  ^O  my  lover, 
it  itches  very  much  .  .  .  push  on  again,  my  whole  body 
melts  with  pleasure  ...  do  it  vigorously,  be  quick,  so 
that  the  fluids  may  discharge  .  .  .  tread  on  again,  my 
body  feels  so  pleasant.' " 

The  same  informant  gave  me  the  following  samples 
of  a  conversation  which  would  occur  after  the  act,  when 
the  two  rested  in  each  other's  arms: 

^^Kayne         tomhwayUm  yayguP^ 

"Whether     sweetheart  thine     I?" 
^^Mtage!  nabwayligu  yoku —    sene 

"Yes!  sweetheart  mine       thou —    very  much 

magigu;  tutay  tuta,  bitakayta;  sene 

desire  mine;  time,  time,  we  copulate ;        very  much 

migimbwayligu  mlgm  tabudaP^ 

face  yours  beloved  by  me        face  thine      cross-cousins!" 



^^Gala     maglgu  bukuyousi  nata      vivila- 

"No       desire  mine       you  get  hold       one       woman 

nava^u;  yoku  wala^       yaygu,^^ 

new  woman  3    thou  indeed,    I." 

"Am  I  thy  sweetheart?"  "Yes,  thou  art  my  sweet- 
heart j  I  love  thee  very  much  3  always,  always  we  shall 
cohabit.  I  love  thy  face  very  much  j  it  is  that  of  a  cross- 
cousin  (the  right  woman  for  me)."  "I  do  not  desire 
that  thou  shouldst  take  a  new  woman  j  just  thou  and  I." 

I  was  informed  that  sexual  relations  between  married 
people  would  be  on  the  same  lines,  but,  from  the  follow- 
ing text,  it  is  clear  that  passion  ebbs  with  time. 

Vigilava^u  imasisisi  kzvaytanidesi 

Married  newly  they  sleep  single  one 

kabasi;  blmugo  vayvaH  bikwaybogwOy 

bed  theirs  j        it  matures      matrimony        it  is  old, 
kwayta  kabalay        kwayta  kabada.  Bisala^u 

one        bed  her,      one        bed  ours.  It  is  energetic 

uwasiy  magisi  bikaytasi,  bikenusi 

body  theirs,        desire  theirs        they  copulate,     they  lie 
deli  bikamitakukusi  bivayaulasiy 

together  they  bite  eyelashes  they  rub  noses. 

they  bite. 

"Newly  married  people  sleep  together  in  one  bed. 
When  matrimony  has  matured,  when  it  has  become  old, 
she  sleeps  in  one  bed,  and  we  (i.e.  the  husband)  sleep 



in  another.  When  they  feel  sexually  vigorous  they  want 
to  cohabit  5  then  they  lie  together,  they  bite  their  eye- 
lashes, they  rub  their  noses,  they  bite  each  other." 

Here  my  informant,  Tokulubakiki,  a  married  man, 
tries  to  convey  the  idea  that  even  long-married  persons 
can  behave  at  times  as  lovers. 

In  conclusion,^  I  should  like  to  draw  the  attention  of 
the  reader  to  the  data  supplied  by  Dr.  W.  E.  Roth  and 
other  informants  concerning  the  sexual  life  of  the  ab- 
origines of  Australia.^  The  subject  is  of  considerable 
importance  as  the  mechanism  is  very  characteristic  of  the 
whole  nature  of  erotic  approach.  The  manner  in  which 
the  Queensland  aborigines  copulate  closely  resembles  that 
described  in  this  chapter.  In  both  regions  the  act  can 
be  so  carried  out  that  there  is  the  minimum  of  bodily 
contact.  I  think  that  this  to  a  great  extent  accounts  for 
the  undiscriminating  way  in  which  young  and  handsome 
boys  will  sometimes  fornicate  with  old  and  repulsive 
women.  On  the  other  hand,  where  love  exists,  the  man 
can  bend  over  the  woman  or  the  woman  raise  herself  to 
meet  him  and  contact  can  be  as  full  and  intimate  as  is 

^  Compare  also  what  has  been  said  about  native  ideas  concerning  the 
anatomy  and  physiology  of  procreation  and  the  psycho-physiological 
mechanism  of  falling  in  love,  chapter  vii. 

2  Dr.  W.  E.  Roth,  Ethnological  Studies  Among  the  North-West  Central 
Queensland  Aborigines,  1897,  and  H.  Basedow,  in  J.R.AJ.,  1927,  on 
"Subincision  and  Kindred  Rites  of  the  Australian  Aboriginal,"  pp.  151-6. 




Perhaps  nothing  is  so  akin  to  the  mysterious  and  stir- 
ring condition  which  we  call  falling  in  love,  as  that  mystic 
expectancy  of  miraculous  intervention  and  of  benevolent 
and  unexpected  happenings  which  comes  to  all  men  at 
certain  psychological  moments  and  forms  the  founda- 
tion of  the  human  belief  in  magic.  There  is  a  desire  in 
every  one  of  us  to  escape  from  routine  and  certainty, 
and  it  can  be  said,  without  exaggeration,  that  to  most  men 
nothing  is  more  cheerless  and  oppressive  than  the  rigidity 
and  determination  with  which  the  world  runsj  and 
nothing  more  repugnant  than  the  cold  truths  of  science, 
which  express  and  emphasize  the  determination  of  reality. 
Even  the  most  sceptical  at  times  rebel  against  the  inevi- 
table causal  chain,  which  excludes  the  supernatural  and, 
with  it,  all  the  gifts  of  chance  and  good  fortune.  Love, 
gambling  and  magic  have  a  great  deal  in  common. 

In  a  primitive  community,  not  yet  in  bond  to  science, 
magic  lies  at  the  root  of  innumerable  beliefs  and  prac- 
tices. Megway  which  may  be  almost  exactly  rendered 
by  our  word  "magic,"  is,  to  the  Trobriander,  a  force  re- 
siding in  man,  transmitted  to  him  from  generation  to 
generation  through  the  medium  of  tradition.  This  force 
can  only  become  active  by  the  performance  of  a  ritual 
^appropriate  to  the  occasion,  by  the  recital  of  proper  incan- 



tationSj  and  by  the  observance  of  specific  taboos.  In  all 
matters  relating  to  love,  it  is  of  fundamental  importance. 
Magic  can  endow  with  charm  and  engender  lovej  magic 
can  alienate  affection  in  consort  or  lover  j  and  magic  can 
produce  or  enhance  personal  beauty. 


The  magic  of  which  the  purpose  is  so  to  increase  per- 
sonal attractiveness  that  the  performer  may  become 
erotically  irresistible  to  some  one  member  of  the  opposite 
sex,  is  but  one  among  several  kinds  of  beauty  magic. 
Personal  appearance  and  charm  are  not  valued  on  amo- 
rous grounds  only.  A  woman  in  her  first  pregnancy, 
as  we  know,  is  subject  to  an  elaborate  ritual,  with  spells 
to  enhance  her  bodily  beauty,  which  is  in  no  way  intended 
to  make  her  attractive  to  men.  She  is  sexually  taboo  to 
her  own  husband  j  and  the  idea  of  adultery  under  such 
circumstances  is,  without  exaggeration,  morally  repul- 
sive to  the  natives.  Again,  a  beauty  magic  has  been 
described  elsewhere  which  is  performed  at  a  certain  stage 
in  an  overseas  expedition.^  This  has  no  erotic  reference — 
indeed  love-making,  on  such  occasions,  is  often  taboo — 
but  its  purpose  is  to  make  the  personal  charm  of  the 
visitors  so  irresistible  that  they  will  be  offered  many  gifts 
of  valuable  ornaments.  The  heroes  of  ancestral  days, 
who  make  themselves  beautiful  for  reasons  which  have 

1  See  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  ch.  xiii,  sec.  i,  and  especially 
PP-  335-6.     Compare  also  footnote  on  p.  219,  vol.  i,  of  this  work. 



nothing  to  do  with  sex,  figure  in  the  mythology  of  the 
kula  (ArgonautSy  ch.  xii).  It  is  important  that  the  prac- 
tice of  beauty  magic  to  a  directly  sexual  end  should  be 
placed  in  its  proper  setting  in  this  general  and  intense 
interest  in  personal  charm. 


In  our  description  of  the  opportunities  given  by  festive 
occasions  for  mutual  admiration  and  contact,  the  im- 
portance of  beauty  and  skill  in  dancing,  and  of  "deport- 
ment" was  made  clear.  Beauty  magic  is  a  part  of  the 
personal  preparation  for  all  big  festivals  5  special  charms 
are  recited  over  certain  parts  of  the  body  during  the  care 
and  cleansing  of  them,  and  during  ornamentation.  This 
is  always  done  on  the  last  and  culminating  day  of  the 
period  of  festival  dancing  (usigola)  or  of  competitive 
games  {kayasa)^  during  the  third  feast  in  which  they 
terminate  (ch.  ix,  sees.  3  and  4).  The  tension,  interest 
and  personal  animosities  characteristic  of  these  competitive 
displays  must  be  realized  before  we  can  understand  the 
nature  and  importance  of  the  beauty  ceremonial  j  and  we 
shall,  therefore,  give  a  short  account  of  the  proceedings 
as  ritual  observances,  but  without  returning  to  the  games 
and  amusements  round  which  they  centre  (see  above, 
ch.  ix,  sec.  2). 

The  festive  period,  which  lasts  twenty-eight  days, 
always  begins,  as  we  know,  at  the  full  moon  after  the 
return  of  the  ancestral  spirits.     It  is  opened  by  a  cere- 



monial  distribution  of  food  (sagali)  (pis.  71  and  72).  A 
sagali  is  a  very  important  institution  in  the  Trobriands^ 
it  accompanies  most  ceremonial  occasions,  such  as  mortu- 
ary rites,  commemoration  feasts,  competitive  enterprises 
and  the  annual  season  of  amusement.  The  mortuary 
sagali  (distributions),  which  are  the  most  important,  are 
based  upon  the  division  into  clans  and  sub-clans  (see  ch.  vi, 
sec.  4,  and  ch.  xiii,  sec.  5),  since  members  of  only  one 
clan  always  act  as  distributors,  men  of  the  remaining 
clans  receiving  the  food.  At  other  times  the  apportion- 
ment of  the  food  follows  some  other  sociological  prin- 
ciple. In  all  cases,  however,  it  is  the  headman  of  the 
local  community  who  officiates  as  "master  of  the  distri- 
bution" {toUsagali).  He  and  his  kinsmen  arrange  the 
allotment  of  each  heap  of  yams,  moving  among  them, 
discussing  and  memorizing  (pi.  71).  After  that  the  same 
committee  slowly  walk  from  one  heap  to  another  and 
the  master  or  his  spokesman  calls  out  the  name  or  descrip- 
tion of  the  recipient.  When  this  has  been  done,  the  men 
move  away  from  the  place  and,  after  a  time,  the  women 
belonging  to  each  recipient  collect  the  yams  in  baskets  and 
carry  them  to  their  storehouses  (pi.  72).  In  a  small 
sagaliy  such  as  is  held  within  the  community  at  the  be- 
ginning of  a  dancing  or  playing  season,  the  duty  of  pro- 
viding the  food  invariably  falls  on  the  master  and  his 
kinsmen,  while  the  renown  {butura)  of  the  distribution 
goes  to  their  credit,  and  those  who  receive  food  are  re- 
sponsible to  them  for  the  success  of  the  entertainments 
which  follow. 

The  distribution  in  fact  imposes  an  obligation  on  all 



participants  to  go  on  steadily  with  the  dance,  game,  or 
whatever  special  display  has  been  chosen,  for  the  whole 
period.  In  an  usigola  (dancing  period)  each  heap  of 
food  would  be  allotted  according  to  its  size,  and  be  given 
to  a  special  class  of  performer.  One  of  the  largest  would 
go  to  the  leaders  of  the  round  dance  {tokoUmatala) .  The 
three  men  who  perform  the  complicated  figure  dance,  the 
solemn  kasawaga^  receive  an  equally  big  portion.  The 
singers  {tokwayfo^u\  a  body  of  no  mean  importance,  also 
have  their  special  place  in  the  distribution.  Smaller  heaps 
of  different  sizes  are  given  to  the  drummers,  the  mutes  in 
the  figure  dance,  the  boys  who  catch  the  iguana  for  the 
drumskin,  and  to  all  the  rest  of  the  villagers,  according 
to  the  part  they  play  in  the  proceedings.  In  a  sagali  (dis- 
tribution), therefore,  the  respective  importance  of  each 
group  is  emphasized  and  this  causes  a  certain  amount  of 
tension  and  jealousy,  and  some  little  boasting. 

On  the  first  day,  magic  is  performed  over  a  conch- 
shell  and  over  food.  The  conch-shell  is  blown  on  that 
day  and  also  during  the  dance  j  the  food  is  buried  wher- 
ever a  road  enters  the  village.  Both  rites  are  meant 
magically  to  enhance  the  splendour  of  the  performance. 
The  charmed  conch-shell  announces  the  coming  display 
with  the  thrilling  ostentation  of  magical  power.  The 
burial  of  the  food  expresses  the  desire  for  plenty  within 
the  village,  is  a  symbol  of  it,  and  is  believed  to  effect  it. 
I  was  unable  to  obtain  the  formula  of  this  magic,  so  my 
information  is  but  approximate. 

After  these  ceremonies,  the  dancing  period  begins.  At 
first,  there  is  much  to  do  in  the  way  of  learning,  training, 



and  preliminary  contests.  In  the  middle  of  the  month 
a  second  sagaU  (distribution  of  food)  is  held,  called 
katumwalela  kasakasa  (the  priming  of  the  rank  and  file). 
There  is  a  special  dance  on  such  a  day,  but  no  other  rites 
are  performed. 

Finally,  at  the  next  full  moon,  there  comes  the  kovayse 
(the  winding  up),  which  lasts  for  three  days,  and  is  the 
main  festivity  of  the  period.  Two  days  before  the  full 
moon,  there  is  a  great  communal  eating  of  sago  or  taro 
pudding  (see  pis.  5  and  86).  This  day  is  called  itavakayse 
kaydebu  ("preparing  of  the  dancing  shield"),  or  itava- 
kayse bisila  ("preparing  of  the  pandanus  streamer"),  in 
reference  to  the  shield  and  streamer  which  are  both  used 
in  dancing.  On  the  next  day,  which  is  called  kokolukwaHy 
the  same  proceedings  are  repeated.  On  both  days  cere- 
monial dancing  takes  place. 

The  third  day  is  called  luvayam^  "the  day  of  consum- 
mation," or  lafulay  "the  rounding-off  day,"  and  is  a  great 
occasion.  People  from  many  villages  are  invited,  and 
begin  to  arrive  in  the  morning,  soon  filling  the  village 
street  and  surrounding  spaces.  Each  community  sits  in 
a  group,  camping  on  mats,  surrounded  with  baskets  and 
children.  Those  on  more  intimate  terms  with  their  hosts 
assist  them  in  the  preparations.  The  villagers,  with 
serious  set  faces,  move  quickly  to  and  fro  among  the 
guests,  in  gala  dress,  some  already  adorned  for  the 
dance — ^the  men  perhaps  in  female  grass  petticoats  with 
the  whole  body  decked  out  in  valuable  ornaments  and 

In  the  morning,  the  performance  begins  with  an  in- 



augural  round  dance,  the  mwelt  (as  on  pis.  58,  G^t  82). 
The  mweli  is  followed  at  about  noon  by  the  ceremonial 
figure  dance  {kasawaga)  (pi.  73).  All  is  done  in  full 
dress  and  with  great  display,  to  the  attentive  observation 
of  the  onlookers.  But  this  is  only  a  preparation  for  what 
will  follow. 

After  midday,  the  real  ceremonial  begins.  The  per- 
formers have  now  ritually  to  wash,  dress,  and  ornament 
themselves.  The  visitors  and  the  rest  of  the  villagers 
are  in  the  meantime  engaged  in  a  distribution  of  food  and 
in  feasting.  Early  in  the  afternoon,  platters  of  baked 
yams,  bananas,  and  coco-nut,  and  sometimes  of  fish  as 
well,  are  brought  to  the  guests  and  distributed  to  each 
community  as  mltalela  valu  ("eye  of  the  village" — a 
metaphor  which  I  was  unable  to  elucidate).  This  is 
usually  an  occasion  for  much  merriment  and  some  horse- 
play, the  givers  and  receivers  exchanging  appropriate 
jokes.  Then  each  group  sets  to  work  on  its  portion,  sit- 
ting round  the  platter  with  backs  turned  to  the  people 
from  other  village  communities,  as  is  required  by  good 

To  complete  our  account  of  food  distributions:  there 
follows  another  sagali,  in  which  the  performers,  now  fully 
dressed  and  adorned,  give  presents  to  their  tahmia 
(father's  sisters,  and  their  daughters).  This  is  a  repay- 
ment for  the  beauty  magic  which  the  women  have  per- 
formed upon  them,  to  the  description  of  which  we  now 



BEAUTY    magic:    THE    RITUAL    OF    WASHING 

The  ceremonial  washing  and  decoration  of  the  dancers 
is  undertaken  on  this  occasion  by  women  of  a  special  class, 
namely  those  who  stand  to  them  in  the  relation  of  tabu. 
We  shall  have  to  discuss  the  tahu  and  their  place  in  the 
social  scheme  more  fully  in  the  chapters  which  follow 
(ch.  xiii,  sec.  63  see  also  ch.  viii,  sec.  2).  In  this  place  we 
need  only  mention  that  they  are  the  approved  and  suitable 
partners  for  passing  intrigues,  for  more  stable  liaisons  or 
for  marriage  (see  also  ch.  iv,  sec.  4).  It  is  their  duty 
now  to  prepare  the  men  for  the  dance,  to  deck  them  out 
with  ornaments,  with  flowers  and  with  paint,  and  to  per- 
form the  magic  incidental  to  each  stage  of  the  proceed- 
ings. In  this,  the  ritual  differs  from  the  beauty  magic  in 
the  kulay  where  each  man  makes  his  own  magic  and 
adorns  himself.  It  is,  on  the  other  hand,  similar  in  every 
respect  to  the  beauty  magic  performed  in  the  first  preg- 
nancy ceremony  (see  above,  ch.  viii,  sec.  2). 

The  ceremonial  dressing  must,  as  always,  be  preceded 
by  a  ritual  washing  and  cleansing,  conducted  to  a  running 
accompaniment  of  appropriate  spells.  The  dancers  and 
their  attendants  have  now  assembled  outside  the  village 
in  the  grove,  usually  at  a  place  not  far  from  the  water- 
hole  (pi.  74).  While  the  boys  wait,  their  tabula  recite  a 
spell  over  some  coco-nut  fibre,  with  which  the  skin  is  to 
be  rubbed  as  with  a  sponge  5  and  over  some  soft  leaves 
(usually  of  the  wageva  shrub),  with  which  the  skin  will 



be  dried  as  with  a  towel.  This  is,  in  free  translation,  a 
kaykakaya  (ablution)  formula  for  the  charming  of  the 
coco-nut  fibre:  ^ 

Polishing,  polishing  off, 

Cleansing,  cleansing  off. 

There  is  one  piece  of  fibre. 

My  own,  a  keen  fibre,  a  buoyant  fibre, 

One  which  is  as  the  morning  star, 

Which  is  as  the  full  moon. 

I  cleanse  his  chest,  I  improve  his  head, 

I  improve  his  chest,  I  cleanse  his  head. 

They  climb  up  a  pole   (to  admire). 

They  bind  a  flattery-bond  round  his  knees. 

This  formula  needs  hardly  any  comment.  It  contains, 
as  with  most  magic,  the  affirmation  of  the  desired  effect. 
It  begins  with  a  simple  statement  of  the  action  of  cleans- 
ing, and  then  extols  the  value  of  the  coco-nut,  comparing 
it  to  the  morning  star  and  to  the  full  moon.  The  quality 
thus  charmed  into  the  coco-nut  fibre  will,  it  must  be  re- 
membered, be  later  on  transferred  by  friction  to  the  skin 
of  the  bather.  The  idea  of  a  light  colour  as  an  attribute 
of  beauty  is  clearly  expressed.  The  formula  closes  with 
an  exaggerated  statement  of  the  effect  to  be  produced  by 
the  magic.  It  is  a  custom  to  remove  a  piece  of  decoration 
from  the  body  of  a  dancer  or,  in  the  case  of  people  of 
high  rank,  to  tie  a  string  round  his  leg  or  arm,  in  order 
to  express  admiration.  This  is  done  with  the  words 
Agu  tilewaHy  "my  flattery-bond,"  and  has  to  be  redeemed 
by  the  admired  dancer  with  a  suitable  present,  which  is 
also  called  tilewaH — flattery-gift. 

1  For  information  as  to  the  linguistic  plan  adopted  in  the  translation  of 
this  and  other  native  texts,  see  ch.  xviii,  "The  Power  of  Words  in  Magic," 
in  my  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific. 


The  following  formula  is  spoken  over  the  leaves  used 
for  drying  the  skin : — 

I  pull  and  pull,  I  pull  hither  and  thither, 

I  pull  my  leaves  of  drying. 

There  is  one  kind  of  towel  leaves,  / 

The  leaves  of  my  companions; 

Sere,  parched  leaves  they  are, 

There  is  another  kind  of  leaves,  my  tovp^el  leaves. 

The  leaves  of  me,  of  Ibo'umli, 

They  are  keen  buoyant  flashing  leaves. 

Here  again  we  find  the  usual  affirmation,  but  the  three 
middle  lines  are  very  interesting,  for  they  show  what 
might  be  called  a  typical  case  of  magical  relativity.  The 
magic  of  the  speaker,  who  in  such  cases  always  mentions 
his  or  her  own  name,  is  extolled  at  the  expense  of  the 
magic  of  his  or  her  companions.  This  type  of  phrasing 
is  prevalent  in  magic  applied  in  competitive  activities.^ 
The  pulling  of  the  leaves  mentioned  in  the  first  line  refers 
to  the  act  of  breaking  them  from  the  tree,  and  is  a  typical 
magical  expression. 

After  the  coco-nut  fibre  and  the  leaves  have  been 
charmed,  each  man  takes  his  sponge  and  towel  from  his 
tabula  and  wraps  it  up  in  leaves,  so  that  no  magic  virtue 
shall  evaporate,  even  during  the  short  passage  from  the 
spot  where  they  are  assembled  to  the  water-hole,  whither 
the  men  presently  repair,  leaving  the  women  behind. 
Arrived  there,  the  men  remove  all  dress  and  ornament, 
and  begin  to  wash,  scraping  off  any  paint  which  still  re- 
mains from  the  morning.  The  coco-nut  fibre  is  first  un- 
wrapped from  its  covering,  and  with  this  they  rub  their 

1  Compare,  for  instance,  the  formula  referring  to  the  speed  of  the  canoe, 
Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific,  p.  130. 


skin.  They  rub  carefully  and  earnestly  and  with  a  scru- 
pulous minuteness,  so  that  no  part  of  the  skin  shall  remain 
untouched.  The  face  and  the  chest  are  perhaps  most 
thoroughly  scrubbed.  With  the  same  meticulous  atten- 
tion to  detail,  the  skin  is  dried  with  the  soft,  spongy 
leaves.  Then  they  return  to  their  female  magicians  who 
are  awaiting  them. 

BEAUTY    magic:    THE    RITUAL    OF   ADORNMENT 

In  the  meantime,  the  women  have  been  preparing 
various  cosmetic  substances.  Each  boy,  before  the  wash- 
ing, has  taken  off  his  most  precious  ornaments,  such  as 
shell-belt,  armshells,  and  valuable  necklaces,  and  left 
them  with  his  tabula;  so  now  the  toilet  can  begin.  First 
comes  the  anointing  with  charmed  coco-nut  oil,  always  the 
next  stage  after  washing  (I  failed  to  obtain  the  magical 
formula  of  coco-nut  oil).  When  this  has  been  well 
rubbed  all  over  the  skin,  by  the  man  himself  and  not  by 
the  women,  the  latter  proceed  to  stroke  the  skin  with 
a  mother-of-pearl  shell  {kayeki  or  kaydohu)  (pi.  75). 
Slowly  and  gently  each  tabula  presses  the  smooth  shell 
up  and  down  over  his  cheeks,  his  arms  and  his  chest,  and 
laterally  across  his  forehead  5  reciting  a  formula,  as  she 
does  so,  in  a  clear  audible  voice.  The  words  must  always 
be  spoken  towards  the  boy's  face  which  she  is  stroking. 

Who  makes  the  beauty  magic? — 

To  heighten  the  beauty,  to  make  it  come  out. 

Who  makes  it  on  the  slopes  of  Obukula? — 

I,  Tabalu,  and  my  mate  Kwaywaya. 

We  make  the  beauty  magic. 



I  smooth  out,  I  improve,  I  whiten! 
Thy  head  I  smooth  out,  I  improve,  I  whiten! 
Thy  cheeks  I  smooth  out,  I  improve,  I  whiten! 
Thy  nose  I  smooth  out,  I  improve,  I  whiten! 
Thy  throat  I  smooth  out,  I  improve,  I  whiten! 
Thy  neck  I  smooth  out,  I  improve,  I  whiten! 
Thy  shoulders  I  smooth  out,  I  improve,  I  whiten! 
Thy  breast  I  smooth  out,  I  improve,  I  whiten! 
Bright  skin,  bright;  glowing  skin,  glowing. 

The  opening  sentences  of  the  formula  again  present  a 
typical  pattern  of  Trobriand  magic.  They  express  the 
traditional  filiation  of  the  actual  performer.  By  reciting 
them,  the  magician  charms,  not  in  his  own  name,  but  as 
a  representative,  so  to  speak,  of  the  original  source  of  the 
magic.  He — or  in  this  case  she — is  even  projected  to  the 
spot  from  whence  the  magic  came  5  in  the  present  rites 
on  the  slopes  of  Obukula,  where  the  primeval  grotto  lies, 
near  the  village  of  Laba'i.^  From  this  grotto,  according 
to  tradition,  the  earliest  clan-ancestors  emerged.  There, 
also,  the  culture  hero  Tudava  was  raised  and  lived  with 
his  mother.  It  is  the  centre  of  traditional  magic,  of 
custom  and  of  law.  The  formula  identifies  the  speaker 
with  two  ancestors  of  the  highest  sub-clan,  which  takes 
its  name  from  one  of  them,  Tabalu.  In  the  form  given 
in  this  charm,  the  names  can  be  either  male  or  female. 
In  practice,  the  masculine  prefix  Mo-  or  the  feminine 
prefix  Bo-  is  usually  added  to  indicate  whether  a  man  or 
a  woman  is  named.  Thus,  the  old  chief  of  Kasana'i,  who 
was  still  alive  on  my  first  visit  to  the  Trobriands,  was 
called  M 'tabalu,  and  one  of  his  nephews,  Kwaywaya. 
The  feminine  forms  would  be  Botabalu  and  Bokwaywaya 

1  For  details  of  these  legendary  places  and  persons,  see  Myth  in  Primi' 
five  Psychology. 



respectively.  The  rest  o£  the  formula  is  typical  of  all 
the  longer  spells  and  follows,  step  by  step,  the  ritual 
applications  to  the  object  charmed.  This  is  the  longest 
formula  and  the  most  circumstantial  act  of  beauty  magic. 
After  the  body  has  been  anointed  and  smoothed  with 
the  pearl  shell,  the  cosmetics  are  ceremonially  applied. 
The  mouth  is  painted  with  crushed  betel-nut,  while  the 
following  words  are  chanted: 

Red  paint,  red  paint  thither. 

Red  paint,  red  paint  hither. 

One  red  paint  of  my  companions, 

It  is  sere,  it  is  parched. 

One  red  paint,  my  red  paint 

Of  me,  of  Ibo'umli ; 

It  is  keen,  it  is  buoyant,  it  is  flashing: 

My  red  paint. 

This  charm  is  similar  in  form  to  that  of  the  wageva 

When  the  mouth  has  been  painted  red,  and  perhaps  a 
few  lines  in  the  same  colour  on  the  face,  ornamental 
spirals  are  painted  on  the  cheeks  and  forehead  with 
sayaku  (pi.  76),  an  aromatic  black  cosmetic,  while  the 
following  words  are  recited: 

O  black  paint,  O  buoyant  black  paint! 

O  black  paint,  O  decorative  black  paint! 

O  black  paint,  O  comely  black  paint! 

Glowing  eyes,  glowing,  bright  eyes,  bright. 

For  this  is  my  sayaku. 

The  ornamenting,  the  alluring  black  paint  Indeed. 

Then  the  hair  is  teased  out  with  a  comb  to  the  accom- 
paniment of  this  spell: 

Who  makes  the  beauty  magic — 
To  heighten  the  beauty,  to  make  it  come  out? 
Who  makes  it  on  the  slopes  of  Kituma? 
,  I,  Ibo'umli,  make  the  beauty  magic 


To  heighten  the  beauty,  to  make  it  come  out. 

1  make  it  on  the  slopes  of  Kituma. 

Keen  is  my  comb,  buoyant  is  my  comb, 

My  comb  is  like  the  full  moon, 

My  comb  is  like  the  morning  star. 

For  this  is  my  comb, 

It  will  adorn  me, 

It  will  make  me  beloved  indeed. 

The  name,  Ibo'umli,  occurring  in  this  and  one  or  two 
of  the  previous  formulas,  is  that  of  my  informant.  The 
place,  Kituma,  seems  to  be  somewhere  in  the  eastern  archi- 
pelago, but  my  informant  could  not  locate  it  exactly. 

The  toilet  is  now  almost  complete.  The  dancers  are 
adorned  with  red  flowers,  aromatic  herbs  {yana)^  and 
garlands  of  the  butiuy  which  always  blooms  at  this  season 
(pi.  77).  Appropriate  incantations  are  said,  but  I  shall 
not  here  cite  them,  for,  although  I  obtained  them,  I  can- 
not translate  them  satisfactorily.  Finally,  and  with  no 
adjuvant  magic,  such  valuable  ornaments  as  belts,  arm- 
shells,  necklaces,  and  last,  but  not  least,  the  feather  orna- 
ments for  the  head,  are  put  on  the  dancers.  This  last 
part  of  the  toilet  is  done  by  men  (pi.  78). 


The  elaborate  ritual  preparation  of  the  dancers  gives 
some  indication  of  the  tense  emotional  atmosphere  which 
is  characteristic  of  these  big  festive  assemblies.  The  whole 
complex  of  dangerous  passions,  which,  at  the  same  time, 
spring  from  and  generate  the  spirit  of  emulation,  is 
wrought  upon  by  such  a  culminating  occasion  for  personal 



While  charms  are  being  said  over  the  dancers  in  the 
grove  to  give  them  added  beauty,  strength,  and  skill,  two 
other  kinds  of  magic  are  being  prepared  in  the  village,  one 
of  which  is  a  measure  of  protection.  There  is  a  deep 
belief  and  a  strong  apprehension  among  the  natives  that 
black  magic  is  being  used  against  the  dancers  by  the  ene- 
mies of  the  village*  Excellence  in  dancing  is,  indeed, 
one  of  those  dangerous  accomplishments  which  arouse 
great  envy,  and  against  which  many  an  evil  magician 
directs  his  powers.  In  fact,  among  the  symptoms  by 
which  the  wizard  murderer  is  identified  on  the  corpse  of 
his  victim,  an  important  place  is  occupied  by  marks  which 
signify:  "This  man  was  killed  for  his  excellence  in 
dancing."  ^ 

There  is  a  special  evil  magic  called  kaygiauri,  which  is 
practised  against  the  dancers,  and  indeed  against  all  the 
bystanders  except  the  sorcerer  himself  and  his  friends. 
I  was  not  able  to  find  out  any  details  about  this  magic, 
how  it  is  performed,  or  how  it  is  supposed  to  act.  But 
I  have  myself  seen  men  preparing  an  antidote  and  making 
the  counter-magic  over  the  dancers.  When  the  ritual 
toilet  had  been  completed,  small  parcels  were  produced, 
containing  magically  treated  wild  ginger-root  hermetically 
wrapped  up  in  leaves.  These  were  chewed  by  the  magi- 
cian, who  then  spat  over  the  skin  of  the  dancer.  Next  he 
took  some  aromatic  leaves  {kwehila)  j  over  these  he  mut- 
tered a  short  formula,  and  then  he  put  them  into  the  arm- 
lets of  the  dancers. 

The  operation  of  these  evil  passions  is  not,  in  fact, 

^  Cf.  Crime  and  Custom,  part  ii,  ch.  ii,  p.  89. 



wholly  confined  to  the  realm  of  idea  and  belief.  The 
danger  of  a  fight  during  the  culminating  day  of  a  kayasa 
is  even  now  not  quite  excluded.  I  was  never  present  when 
feeling  ran  high  enough  to  develop  into  a  brawl,  but, 
even  so,  I  was  strongly  aware  of  a  violence  and  ruthless- 
ness  in  the  behaviour  of  the  performers  and  of  the  crowd, 
of  a  certain  nervous  mistrust  and  clinging  together  of  each 
group,  which  confirmed  the  direct  statements  of  the  na- 
tives and  my  general  information  as  to  the  conduct  of 
such  affairs  in  former  times.  Then  the  natives  would 
come  fully  armed,  with  spears,  wooden  sword  clubs, 
throwing  sticks,  and  shields  3  each  community  would 
stand  in  a  group  with  every  man  on  his  guard,  suspicious 
of  all  strangers  and  on  the  look-out  for  possible  trouble. 
When  interest  in  the  performance  was  at  its  height,  people 
would  push  forward,  the  closer  physical  contact  would 
cause  suspicion  of  sorcery,  and  anything  might  be  the 
signal  for  a  fight.  The  presence  of  women  in  the  various 
groups  was  another  important  source  of  danger,  because 
of  sexual  rivalry. 

To  the  envy  and  jealousy  and  mutual  mistrust  must 
be  added  an  ardent  desire  for  renown  {hutura).  This 
finds  full  and  independent  expression  in  a  further  type  of 
magic,  which,  with  that  of  beauty  and  the  specific  against 
hostile  sorcery,  is  launched  into  the  exalted  atmosphere 
of  the  village.  This  is  the  magic  of  uributUy  "spreading 
of  renown"  {uriy  from  ^^woriy^  to  strike,  to  flick,  to  spray  j 
butUy  root  of  "renown").  While  the  dancers  are  being 
made  ready  under  the  trees  of  the  village  grove  3  while 
a  distribution  of  food  is  in  progress  on  the  central  place, 



the  magician  of  glory,  the  to^uributUy  proceeds  in  his  own 
house  to  manufacture  fame  for  his  community.  He  is  the 
same  man  who,  on  the  first  day  of  the  festivities,  a  month 
ago,  has  performed  the  important  magic  of  the  conch- 
shells  and  the  buried  food.  In  the  morning  he  has  also 
prepared  the  scene  of  the  dances  by  ritual  sweeping  of  the 
haku  (central  place)  with  a  charmed  broom.  Now  comes 
his  most  important  performance.  On  a  large  mat,  folded 
over  so  that  it  encloses  them,  he  places  a  drum,  a  conch- 
shell,  and  a  few  pieces  of  reed  {dadam).  Into  the  open 
mouth  of  this  improvised  magic  bag  he  then  chants  his 
spells.  The  formula  unfortunately  I  was  not  able  to 

His  task  is  completed  as  the  dancers  are  ready,  fully 
dressed  and  waiting  to  start  (pi.  79)  the  lafula  or  final 
dance.  He  gives  one  of  the  drummers  the  magic  drum^ 
and  another  man  takes  the  charmed  conch-shell. 

The  dancers,  the  singers,  and  the  drummers  now  put 
themselves  into  position,  ready  for  the  signal.  This  is 
given  by  the  magician  of  glory  and  one  or  two  assistants. 
They  run  from  the  village  street  into  the  central  place 
with  the  magic  reed  in  their  hands.  Each  of  them  must 
have  both  his  hands  upon  the  reed,  which  is  pointing 
towards  the  ground.  They  strike  the  ground  at  intervals 
with  the  reed,  while  they  utter  a  high-pitched  scream 
(igovasi) . «  Arrived  at  the  opposite  end  of  the  place,  they 
turn  about  and  throw  the  reed  into  the  air.  The  man 
who  catches  the  reed  scores  a  point  in  this  contest  for 
renown,  and  will  be  spoken  of  all  over  the  district  when 
the  feast  is  gossiped  about  and  its  heroes  mentioned. 



Then  the  men  of  the  reed  utter  another  very  loud  cry 
and  this  gives  the  signal  for  the  drummers  to  beat,  for 
the  conch-shells  to  blow,  and  for  the  dancers  to  begin  their 
final  performance. 


We  now  pass  to  the  most  important  system  of  magic 
connected  with  erotic  life  in  the  Trobriands,  the  magic 
of  love.  While  the  magic  of  beauty  is  always  associated 
with  ceremonial  events,  such  as  the  kula  (ceremonial  ex- 
change), first  pregnancy  celebrations,  a  kayasa  (period  of 
competitive  activity),  or  an  usigolay  the  magic  of  love 
is  performed  whenever  occasion  arises.  While  the  magic 
of  beauty,  again,  is  always  done  openly  and  in  public,  that, 
of  love  is  a  private  matter  and  carried  out  on  the  indi- 
vidual's own  initiative.  This,  of  course,  does  not  mean 
that  there  is  anything  illicit  or  clandestine  about  the  magic 
of  love.  People  who  possess  it  boast  about  it,  and  talk 
about  having  put  it  in  operation.  Nor,  from  the  nature 
of  the  rites,  would  it  be  possible  to  conceal  it  completely 
from  its  object.  The  magic  of  love  becomes  illicit  only 
in  so  far  as  the  love  itself  is  illicit  5  as,  for  instance,  when 
it  is  directed  towards  a  chief's  wife,  or  towards  some  other 
tabooed  person. 

It  has  been  mentioned  that  this  magic  belongs  to  a 
systefn.  A  system  of  magic  in  the  Trobriands  is  a  series 
of  spells,  which  accompany  some  chain  of  linked  activities 
and  are  performed  in  a  fixed  order  following  the  develop- 



ment  of  the  chain.  In  economic  pursuits  such  as  garden- 
ing, fishing,  the  construction  of  a  canoe,  or  a  kula  expe- 
dition, or,  again,  in  the  magic  of  beauty  just  described, 
the  rites  accompany  each  successive  stage  of  the  enterprise, 
which  naturally  proceeds  in  a  definite  order. 

But  there  are  other  spheres  of  magic  where  the  system 
possesses  a  slightly  different  character.  For  instance, 
sorcery  is  believed  to  be  the  real  cause  of  disease.  In- 
deed, black  magic  must  be  effective  and  finally  fatal, 
frovided  that  it  is  properly  carried  out  with  due  observ- 
ance of  all  conditions,  and  frovided  that  it  is  not  met  by 
a  stronger  counter-magic.  The  sorcerer  opens  the  attack, 
the  victim  defends  himself  by  securing  counter-magic,  and 
by  making  use  of  every  factor  which  could  counteract  the 
full  efficiency  of  black  magic.  Even  if  the  sorcerer  is 
successful,  or  partially  so,  the  resultant  illness  does  not 
develop  along  fixed  lines  as  does  the  growth  of  a  garden. 
Hence  this  system  cannot  follow  a  fixed  sequence  of 
events.  Instead,  a  system  of  black  magic  consists  of  a 
succession  of  spells  and  rites  which  gradually  increase  in 
strength.  When  the  sorcerer  is  successful,  the  increasing 
strength  of  his  spells  produces  the  more  rapid  decline  of 
his  victim  until  death  supervenes.  If  the  sorcerer  is  being 
thwarted,  he  launches  increasingly  strong  formulas  in 
order  to  get  at  his  victim  through  the  barrier  of  precau- 
tions, adverse  conditions,  and  counter-magic  with  which 
the  latter  has  protected  himself. 

Let  us  examine  black  magic,  not  from  the  native,  but 
from  the  ethnographer's  point  of  view.  A  sorcerer  either 
is  paid  to  remove  a  victim  or  does  so  from  personal  mo- 



tives.  It  may  happen,  by  a  mere  coincidence,  that  the 
victim  falls  more  or  less  seriously  ill  within  a  few  weeks 
of  the  initial  operations.  As  black  magic  is  often  adver- 
tised and  always  suspected,  the  illness  is  put  down  to  its 
influence.  If  it  be  known  that  a  powerful  sorcerer,  in  the 
pay  of  a  chief,  is  at  work,  suggestion  may  have  a  serious 
effect  on  the  victim.  It  does  not  follow  that  he  gives  in 
utterly  and  dies,  but  I  suspect  that  this  occasionally^ hap- 
pens/ As  a  rule,  however,  if  pressed  hard,  the  victim 
will  mobilize  all  the  forces  of  defence.  He  will  put 
counter-magic  in  operation  3  set  armed  watches  at  night 
around  him  3  move  away  to  another  place,  change  his  diet, 
and  observe  all  the  taboos  and  other  conditions  of  recov- 
ery. Thus  we  have  the  interplay  of  two  forces  in  the 
imagination  of  the  patient,  corresponding  to  the  inter- 
play of  the  two  real  forces  in  his  organism:  resistance 
and  disease.  The  progress  of  the  system  of  magic,  ac- 
companied by  the  progress  of  the  system  of  counter-magic, 
proceed  side  by  side  with  the  struggle  between  the  or- 
ganism and  the  invading  forces  of  bacteria  or  malignant 
changes.  Once  the  sorcerer  has  determined  on  black 
magic,  or  has  received  payment  for  it,  he  has  to  go 
through  the  whole  repertory  from  the  initial  formula  to 

1 1  have  no  well-attested  instance  in  my  notes,  but  several  cases  of  rapid 
wasting  disease  have  appeared  to  me  to  belong  to  this  category.  Exam- 
ples of  people  dying  from  sheer  conviction  that  a  broken  taboo  has  a 
lethal  influence,  or  that  black  magic,  too  powerful  to  be  counteracted,  has 
been  set  in  motion  against  them,  are  numerous  in  ethnographic  literature. 
The  argument  in  the  text  does  not  rest  on  the  assumption,  however,  that 
what  might  be  called  psychological  death  from  sorcery  is  inevitable.  It 
rests  rather  on  the  principle  which  we  can  regard  as  established  by  mod- 
ern psycho-therapy  that  a  conviction  of  good  and  bad  influences  working 
upon  the  patient's  health  is  a  most  powerful  element  in  the  treatment, 
Cf.  P.  Janet,  Les  Medications  Psycholoffigues,  1920. 



the  final  pointing  o£  the  bone — even  i£  he  has  to  admit 
failure  in  the  end.  An  unwittingly  broken  taboo  is  per- 
haps an  important  sorcerer's  best  excuse  for  unsuccess  j  but 
bad  luck  in  the  final  application  of  charmed  substances 
and  powerful  counter-magic  also  serve  to  account  for  the 
impotence  of  his  magic.  After  such  failure,  the  sorcerer 
bides  his  time  and  awaits  a  suitable  opportunity — such, 
for  instance,  as  his  victim  actually  falling  ill.  Then  he 
sets  to  work  again.  For  though  the  natives  believe  that 
real  illness  (silami)  can  be  produced  only  by  magic,  they 
are  perfectly  well  aware  that  an  indisposition  (kaioulo) 
which  may  be  natural  forms  an  excellent  soil  for  the 
operations  of  sorcery. 

It  was  necessary  to  enlarge  on  the  general  character 
of  magical  systems,  and  on  the  distinction  between  the 
system  which  follows  the  naturally  determined  progress 
of  activity  or  enterprise,  on  the  one  hand,  and  the  system 
which  follows  a  course  determined  by  the  chance  play 
of  unknown  factors  on  the  other,  in  order  to  lay  bare  the 
essential  character  of  love  hiagic.  This  type  also  deals 
with  a  configuration  of  chances  and  elements  which  do 
not  follow  a  definite  natural  course.  Here  also  the  belief 
is  very  strong  that  love  magic,  properly  executed  and  not 
counteracted,  is  infallible.  The  nanola  (mind  and  emo- 
tional centre)  of  man  or  woman  cannot  resist  the  com- 
plete consecutive  series  of  rites  and  spells  j  even  if  it  were 
no  more  than  strongly  affected  by  the  initial  steps,  it  must 
succumb  to  the  cumulative  ritual — that  is  if  the  magic 
be  not  magically  counteracted.  For  here  also  there  are 
causes  which  account  for  failure  3  the  performer  may  not 


have  the  words  accurately  or  he  may  have  broken  a  con- 
ditional taboo  5  or  a  counter-magic  may  frustrate  his  almost 
successful  attempts.  As  in  all  supernatural  control  of 
chance,  magical  infallibility  is  absolute  only  under  abso- 
lutely perfect  conditions  5  that  is  to  say,  it  is  never  at- 
tained in  practice,  though  it  may  be  claimed  in  theory. 

THE    RITE    AND    THE    SPELL    IN    LOVE    MAGIC 

In  following  the  practice  of  love  magic  through  its 
successive  stages,  we  must  have  in  mind  the  setting  of  a 
Trobriand  love  story,  in  ordinary  village  life  and  among 
the  customary  forms  of  communication  between  the  sexes. 
Although  girls  are  said  to  practise  this  magic,  it  is  more 
usual  for  the  man  to  take  the  initiative.  The  story  begins 
in  the  ordinary  way:  a  boy  is  fascinated  by  a  girl.  If 
there  be  no  response  and  he  does  not  win  her  favours  im- 
mediately, he  resorts  to  the  most  potent  way  of  courting 
her,  that  is  by  magic. 

As  in  ordinary  beauty  magic,  he  must  first  wash  or 
bathe  in  the  sea.  Thus  he  makes  himself  handsome  and 
attractive  3  in  the  same  rite  he  also  charms  a  responsive 
affection  into  the  loved  one's  heart.  Let  us  suppose  our 
hero  to  live  near  the  sea.  On  his  way  to  the  shore,  he 
gathers  in  the  bush  some  of  the  soft  spongy  leaves  of  the 
wagevay  silaslla^  or  fonatile  shrubs,  and  also  some  leaves 
from  a  tree  with  a  specially  smooth  and  clean  bark — 
preferably  from  the  reyava  and  gatumwalila.  He  puts 
the  whole  bundle  into  some  large  leaf  and  chants  the 



special  washing  formula  over  it.  This  corresponds  to 
analogous  spells  in  the  kula  beauty  magic  and  in  the 
beauty  magic  described  in  the  previous  sections. 

One  of  the  kaykakaya  spells  of  love  magic,  which  I 
obtained,  may  be  freely  rendered  thus: 

The  Kaykakaya  Spell 

Leaves  of  dirt  and  leaves  of  cleansing, 

Leaves  of  dirt  and  leaves  of  cleansing, 

Smooth  as  the  bark  of  the  reyava  tree 

As  the  tail  of  the  opossum. 

My  face  shines  in  beauty; 

I  cleanse  it  with  leaves; 

My  face,  I  cleanse  it  with  leaves, 

My  eyebrows,  I  cleanse  them  with  leaves. 

And  SO  on. 

The  boy  then  has  to  name  various  parts  of  the  head 
and  of  the  body,  adding  after  each  the  word  ayoUse^  which 
has  been  translated  here:  "I  cleanse  with  leaves."  These 
were  the  parts  named  by  the  informant  who  gave  me  the 
charm:  head,  face,  eyebrows,  nose,  cheek,  chin,  jaws, 
throat,  shoulders,  larynx,  breasts,  flanks,  armpits,  but- 
tocks, thighs,  knees,  calves,  and  feet.  The  formula  then 

Beautiful  will  my  face  remain. 

Flashing  will  my  face  remain, 

Buoyant  will  my  face  remain! 

No  more  it  is  my  face, 

My  face  is  as  the  full  moon. 

No  more  it  is  my  face, 

My  face  is  as  the  round  moon. 

I  pierce  through, 

As  the  creamy  shoot  of  the  areca  leaf, 

I  come  out, 

As  a  bud  of  the  white  lily. 

Then  the  charmed  leaves  are  carefully  wrapped  up, 
lest  the  magic  virtue  should  evaporate  {kayawa)^  and  the 

366 ' 


boy  washes  himself  in  water.  When  he  is  thoroughly 
cleansed,  the  wrapping  is  opened,  and  the  skin  rubbed 
all  over  and  dried  with  the  charmed  leaves.  At  this  point 
the  rite  takes  on  its  specific  character  as  part  of  a  system 
of  love  magic  j  for  the  leaves  that  have  been  thus  used 
are  thrown  into  the  sea,  with  the  words:  ^^Kirisana  akay- 
kakayay  kula  kworisaki  matana  .  .  ."  (here  the  girl's  per- 
sonal name  is  mentioned).  The  word  kirisanay  also 
known  in  the  form  kirisala  or  km-isaluy  signifies  the  influ- 
ence which  a  dream  induced  by  magic  may  exercise  over 
the  seat  of  the  emotions — ^the  heart,  as  we  would  say- — 
the  belly,  as  the  natives  put  it.^  The  word  might  be 
rendered:  "The  spell  or  the  influence  of  a  magical  act 
in  inducing  a  dream."  The  verbal  form  is  korisaki  with 
the  active  suflix  -ki.  The  translation  of  the  sentence 
would,  therefore,  run  as  follows:  "Dream-spell  of  my 
kaykakaya  charm,  go  and  effectively  influence  the  eye  of 

Thus  the  rite  has  a  twofold  effect:  it  makes  a  man 
beautiful,  as  does  all  washing  magic,  and  it  carries  sweet 
dreams  about  him  into  the  mind  of  the  girl.  As  the 
natives  put  it,  referring  to  the  ritual  casting  of  the  herbs 
into  the  sea:  "As  the  leaves  will  be  tossed  by  the  waves, 
and  as  they  move  with  the  sea  up  and  down,  so  the  inside 
of  the  girl  will  heave." 

What  follows  depends,  as  in  sorcery,  upon  the  effect 
of  what  has  already  been  accomplished.  If  the  loved  one 
surrenders  easily,  perhaps  one  more  formula  will  be  re- 
cited, to  attach  her  affections  the  more  securely.    But  if 

1  Cf.  below,  ch.  xii,  sec.  i. 



the  washing  magic  fails  completely,  another  attack  is  made 
on  the  beleaguered  heart  by  means  of  a  stronger  magic 
called  the  kasina.  This  has  to  be  administered  through 
the  mouth.  A  piece  of  food  or  betel-nut — or,  to-day, 
some  tobacco — is  charmed  and  given  to  the  girl.  The 
washing  magic  has  already  made  her  more  interested  in 
her  suitor  and,  though  she  is  not  yet  prepared  to  yield, 
she  will  probably  ask  for  some  such  small  gift.  In  any 
case,  she  will  not  refuse  such  an  offering,  even  though 
she  suspects  that  it  is  given  with  an  ulterior  motive. 

The  Kasina  Spell 

My  flashing  decoration,  my  white  skin! 

I  shall  take  the  faces  of  my  companions  and  rivals; 

I  shall  make  them  be  cast  off. 

I  shall  take  my  face,  the  face  of  me  (personal  name), 

And  I  shall  get  a  flattery-bond  for  it 

For  my  beautiful  full-moon  face. 

The  simile  in  the  last  line  would  not  perhaps  send  a 
thrill  to  the  heart  of  a  white  girl,  but  the  full  moon,  for 
the  Trobriander,  is  a  symbol  of  colour  and  of  roundness 
in  a  more  emotionally  appealing  sense  than  it  is  with  us. 
The  "flattery-bond"  {tilewa^i)  has  already  been  explained 
above  (sec.  3). 

When  the  girl  has  eaten  this  little  douceur,  the  magic 
enters  into  her  inside  and  moves  her  mind.  There  is  a 
fair  chance  already  that  her  affections  are  favourably 
inclined,  but  a  still  more  potent  magic  remains.  The  first 
attack,  as  we  saw,  was  through  the  ethereal  medium  of 
dreams  5  the  second,  by  the  very  material  way  of  eating  5 
there  remain  the  two  senses  of  touch  and  smell.  These 
are  considered  the  most  susceptible  in  love  magic. 



The  next  rite,  therefore,  centres  round  an  aromatic 
herb  called  kwoyawaga^  which  grows  only  in  the  eastern 
islands  and  has  to  be  traded  mainly  from  Kitava.  This 
herb  is  put  into  a  receptacle  with  coco-nut  oil,  and  the 
following  spell  is  chanted  over  it: 

The  Kwoyawaga  Spell 

Spread  out,  fold  up, 

Spread  out,  fold  up, 

I  cut  oif,  I  cut,  I  cut. 

A  bait  for  a  bird,  for  a  small  fish-hawk, 

Vviy  wvegu-guyo,  o! 

My  kayro'hiva  love  charm  remains, 

My  kayro'iiva  love  charm  weeps, 

My  kayro'izua  love  charm  pulls, 

My  kayro'i'wa  love  charm  spills  over. 

Press  down,  press  upon  thy  bed ; 

Smooth  out,  smooth  your  pillow-mat; 

Enter  my  house  and  tread  upon  my  floor. 

Tease  out  and  tear  out  my  hair; 

Drink  my  blood  and  take  hold  of  my  penis; 

Apicem  penis  suge,  for  my  guts  are  moved. 

This  formula  is  much  more  obscure  than  the  previous 
ones.  The  first  sentence,  "spread  out,  fold  up,"  may 
refer,  as  my  informants  told  me,  to  the  mat  on  which  a 
boy  and  girl  recline  in  amorous  embrace.  The  cutting,  by 
analogy  with  similar  formulas,  is  of  the  plants  to  be  used 
in  the  magic.  In  the  next  phrase,  the  magic  is  likened 
to  a  bait  for  a  bird  and  the  girl  to  a  fish-hawk  which 
hovers  over  the  trap.  One  sentence  I  was  unable  to 
translate  even  approximately,  and  it  is  therefore  given  in 
native.  What  follows  is  less  cryptic.  Kayro^iwa  is  the 
name  of  one  of  the  systems  of  love  magic,  with  which 
we  shall  become  more  intimately  acquainted  in  connection 
with  the  native  myth  of  incest  (ch.  xiv).  The  last  part 
is  typical  of  the  more  passionate  forms  of  love  magic. 



I  have  obtained  several  formulas  with  similar  endings. 

I  may  add  that,  for  every  formula  which  I  was  able 
to  write  down,  to  check  after  a  few  weeks'  interval,  to  get 
a  commentary  upon,  and  to  translate  into  anything  like 
sense,  I  had  to  reject  several  as  spurious,  fragmentary 
or  not  understood  by  the  natives.  I  was  always  able  to 
distinguish  the  genuine  archaic  formulas  from  the  cor- 
rupt, by  the  method  of  checking  and  re-checking  them 
with  my  original  informant,  after  having  allowed  an 
interval  of  time  to  elapse  after  each  repetition. 

To  return  to  the  magic  of  the  kwoyawaga  herbs,  this 
charmed  and  prepared  aromatic  substance  can  only  be 
used  at  close  quarters.  An  even  more  intimate  approach 
to  the  desired  girl  has  to  be  effected  than  is  possible  with 
the  piece  of  betel-nut  or  tobacco  of  the  previous  ritual. 
For  some  of  the  aromatic  oil  must  be  smeared  upon  her 
body,  or  poured  on  to  her  face,  or,  best  of  all,  applied 
to  her  breasts.  Thus  close  physical  contact  is  needed,  and 
for  this,  opportunities  are  given  in  games,  in  dances,  in 
tribal  festivities,  and  in  the  rhythmic  round  called  the 
karibom.  Only  when  a  boy  is  very  clumsy  or  shy,  or  ha$ 
no  opportunity  for  intimate  approach,  will  he  put  the 
oil  on  a  piece  of  cigarette  paper  (or,  in  olden  days,  on  a 
flower),  so  that  the  smoke  or  scent  may  enter  her  nostrils. 

There  remains  still  one  rite — ^that  of  the  all-powerful 
6ulwmwoyay  the  mint  plant,  which  is  the  symbol  of 
charm  and  seduction,  the  main  instrument  of  attraction  in 
the  kula  (ceremonial  exchange),  the  herb  which  plays  the 
central  part  in  the  myth  of  the  origins  of  love,  and  which 
figures  also  in  the  culminating  act  of  love  magic.     This 



ritual  would  still  be  performed,  even  if  the  magic  had 
been  successful  at  an  earlier  stage.  For  sulumwoya  gives 
a  full  and  undivided  sway  over  the  loved  one's  heart. 
Boge  htfaykt  kutnaydonay  maglla  yaklda^  "Already  she 
will  refuse  all  others  j  her  desire  is  only  for  us."  This 
is  the  formula  of  the  sulumwoya  magic  in  the  kayroHwa 

Sulumwoya  Spell 

O,  her  sensual  excitement! 

O,  her  erotic  swoon! 

O,  desire,  O  feminine  swoon ! 

My  clasping,  thy  clasping,  kindle  our  erotic  swooning! 

My  embraces,  thy  embraces,  kindle  our  erotic  swooning! 

My  copulation,  thy  copulation,  kindle  our  erotic  swooning! 

The  same  complicated  phrasing  is  repeated  with  a 
number  of  words  inserted  instead  of  clasping,  embracing 
and  so  forth.  The  words  are:  horizontal  motion  {bila- 
bala)y  horizontal  repose  {bilamafu)^  erotic  scratching 
{kimaU\  erotic  biting  {kayalu)^  nose  rubbing  {yayaulo\ 
and  eyelash  biting  {mitakuku)y  lousing  {kofokutu\  rub- 
bing each  other's  lips  (kawidova).  Then  come  the  fol- 
lowing sentences: 

My  going  first,  thy  following,  kindle  our  erotic  swooning, 
My  waiting,  thy  waiting,  kindle  our  erotic  swooning. 

and  finally: 

Thou  goest  my  way,  crying  for  me, 

Thou  enterest  my  house,  smiling  at  me. 

The  house  is  shaken  with  joy,  as  thou  treadest  my  floor. 

Tease  and  tear  out  my  hair, 

Drink  my  blood. 

So  that  my  feelings  are  glad. 

This  is  a  long  formula — ^the  longer  since,  as  in  all 
Trobriand  magical  spells,  the  middle  part,  the  litany,  is 


always  repeated  over  and  over  again,  and  not  necessarily 
in  the  same  order.  It  is  chanted  over  a  mint  plant  boiled 
in  coco-nut  oil.  If  the  magic  is  practised  on  someone 
whose  love  has  already  been  captured,  there  is  no  difficulty 
in  spilling  the  scented  and  charmed  oil  over  her,  or 
anointing  her  with  it.  If  she  is  not  yet  subdued,  the 
problem  remains  of  entering  her  hut  at  night,  and  spill- 
ing some  of  it  below  her  nostrils,  so  that  she  may  dream 
of  the  magic  maker.  But  if  this  is  achieved  the  spell  is 

Less  certain  methods  are  to  smear  the  oil  over  her 
hands,  or  bring  some  of  it  near  to  her  facej  or  to  take  a 
sweet-smelling  sprig  of  herbs,  dip  it  in  the  oil  and  flick 
it  under  her  nose.  These  three  methods  obviously  make 
her  cognizant  that  love  magic  is  being  employed  j  and  this 
produces  the  desired  effect — ^psychologically  at  least,  if 
not  magically! 

As  an  additional  charm,  the  same  formula  may  be  re- 
cited over  the  long  spine  of  a  fish  called  ufnlaybasiy  a  prick 
from  which  inflicts  a  lasting  and  smarting  pain.  Holding 
it  in  the  hollow  of  his  hand,  the  boy  brings  his  lips  close 
to  his  hand  and  chants  the  spell  into  it,  after  which  the 
spine  may  be  put  into  the  stopper  of  the  coco-nut  bottle 
in  which  the  oil  is  being  kept.  Or  else,  holding  it  in  the 
hollow  of  his  hand,  the  boy  may  stab  the  girl  with  his 
finger  in  the  ribs  or  thereabout  j  or,  during  the  kariboniy 
he  may  make  one  of  those  even  more  intimate  insertions 
already  mentioned  (ch.  ix,  sec.  3). 




A  direct  and  consecutive  statement  of  a  complex  and 
somewhat  chaotic  subject  such  as  that  of  love  magic 
inevitably  suggests  more  precision  and  system  than  ac- 
tually exists,  especially  when  the  component  parts  hang 
together,  at  least  in  theory.  And  it  is  well  to  realize  that 
actual  proceedings  are  never  as  complete  and  well  de- 
fined as  might  appear  from  native  statements. 

A  certain  amount  of  complication  is  introduced  by  the 
fact  that  there  are  a  number  of  different  systems.  The 
most  famous  one  is  that  of  KayroHwa.  But  the  systems 
of  Kwoygafani  and  LibofnatUy  from  the  islands  of 
Vakuta  and  Kayleula  respectively,  are  also  prominent. 
These  systems,  being  perhaps  the  most  widely  known 
and  practised,  have  now  become  mixed  up  and  few  natives 
have  a  complete  set  of  formulas  belonging  to  the  same 
system.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  only  a  few  of  my  informants, 
even  among  those  who  boasted  of  having  a  powerful  set 
of  formulae,  could  go  through  a  full  set  satisfactorily. 
Each  knew  two  or  three  or  only  one  spell.  I  may  add 
that  perhaps  no  native  in  the  Trobriands  would  be  able 
to  judge  magical  texts  as  well  as  myself.  For  no  human 
memory  is  a  match  for  a  written  comparative  collection. 
Towards  the  end  of  my  field-work,  I  found  little  diffi- 
culty in  deciding  whether  a  spell  recited  to  me  was  genuine 
or  corrupt  j  and,  in  the  latter  case,  whether  it  was  delib- 
erate deception,  self-deception,  or  deception  on  the  part 



of  my  informant's  predecessor,  or  just  lack  of  memory* 

What  matters  to  us  is  that  few  natives  are  in  posses- 
sion of  a  full  system  in  an  unadulterated  form.  A  youth 
who  knows  his  spell  or  two — sometimes  only  a  frag- 
ment— ^will  as  a  rule  genuinely  believe  that  there  is  a 
great  deal  of  virtue  in  itj  very  often  experience 
strengthens  his  belief.  He  will  recite  his  fragment  or  his 
full  charm  over  the  kaykakaya  leaves,  and  if  unsuccess- 
ful he  will  try  his  formula  over  the  other  herbs. 

Each  rite  has  a  certain  positive  effect  on  him  and  usually 
also  on  his  sweetheart.  The  washing  magic  gives  him 
the  conviction  of  increased  strength  and  power  to  attract, 
an  attitude  very  favourable  to  his  enterprise.  The  same 
magic  makes  him  hope  that  the  girl  has  dreamed  of  him,, 
and  that  she  is  ready  to  receive  his  advances.  He  ap- 
proaches her  with  confidence,  and  jokes  with  her  without 

The  other  rites  afford  a  still  more  material  help  in 
love-making.  All  of  them  imply  a  direct  contact  j  a  gift, 
an  erotic  touch,  the  wafting  of  some  scent.  Thus  not  only 
does  he  believe  in  his  magical  powers,  but  she  also  is 
made  aware  that  he  is  working  on  her  heart.  And  she 
also  is  susceptible  to  the  influence  of  belief  and  tradition. 
If  he  is  hopelessly  repulsive  to  her,  this  need  not  shatter 
her  belief  in  love  magic.  She  concludes  that  his  rites  are 
spurious  and  his  formulae  badly  recited.  But  if  he  has 
the  least  attraction  for  her,  it  is  easy  to  see  how  magic  will 
do  its  work. 

These  conclusions  are  based  on  observation  of  native 
behaviour,  on  statements  of  natives,  and  on  the  actual 



working  of  love  magic  in  cases  analysed  to  me  by  my 
friends  as  they  were  proceeding. 

The  deep  conviction  of  the  natives  in  the  virtue  of  love 
magic  and  their  belief  that  it  is  the  only  means  of  wooing, 
have  already  been  mentioned.  All  a  man's  hopes  of  suc- 
cess, his  boasting  and  his  anticipations  are  based  on  con- 
fidence in  his  magical  equipment,  exactly  as  all  failure  is 
attributed  to  lack  or  impotence  in  this  respect.  I  have 
already  several  times  alluded  to  Gomaya:  vain,  arrogant, 
and  wilful,  yet  with  remarkable  personality.  He  always 
used  to  vaunt  his  success  with  women,  and  invariably  in 
terms  of  magic.  He  would  say:  "I  am  ugly,  my  face  is 
not  good-looking.  But  I  have  magic,  and  therefore  all 
women  like  me."  He  would  then  boast  of  his  intrigues 
with  Ilamweria,  of  the  attachment  that  his  cross-cousins 
had  for  him,  and  of  other  amorous  successes,  some  of 
which  have  already  been  mentioned  in  this  volume.  My 
other  informants  were  one  and  all  agreed  in  their  convic- 
tion of  the  potency  of  love  magic.  To  a  direct  question 
I  would  always  receive  the  same  answer:  "If  one  man  is 
good-looking,  a  good  dancer,  and  a  good  singer,  and  he 
has  no  magic  j  while  the  other  man  is  ugly,  lame,  and 
dark-skinned,  but  has  good  magic  3  the  first  will  be  re- 
jected, the  second  will  be  loved  by  women." 

This,  of  course,  is  exaggeration  for  the  sake  of  em- 
phasis, typical  of  a  Melanesian's  way  of  presenting  mat- 
ters. All  natives  know  the  magic,  yet  not  all  by  any 
means  have  the  same  success.  Met  by  such  an  argument, 
the  natives  will  say  that  the  man  who  has  success  has  it 
because  his  magic  is  "keen  and  strong."     And  here  the 



fiction  of  native  belief  comes  nearer  to  reality.  A  man  of 
intelligence,  of  strong  will,  personality,  and  tempera- 
ment, will  have  greater  success  with  women  than  a  beauti- 
ful but  soulless  dullard — in  Melanesia  as  in  Europe.  A 
man  who  is  convinced  that  he  is  going  the  right  way  to 
workj  a  man  who  has  the  energy  to  find  out  who  has  the 
best  magic  and  the  industry  to  acquire  and  learn  it,  such 
a  man  will  be  good  at  love-making  as  well  as  at  magic. 
The  native  belief  thus  expresses  some  truth,  though  it  is 
psychological  rather  than  physical  or  occult,  and  refers  to 
results  rather  than  to  mechanism. 

Gomaya  was  a  case  in  point.  The  five  sons  of  To'uluwa 
and  Kadamwasila  were  all  pleasant  and  clever,  attractive 
and  enterprising,  and  were  all  renowned  for  their  love 
magic.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  the  first  and  last  of  the 
formulas  here  given  I  received  from  Yobukwa'u  who, 
knowing  only  two  out  of  the  four  charms,  yet  achieved 
an  incestuous  love-affair  with  his  father's  youngest  wife, 
several  adulteries,  and  two  engagements  one  after  the 
other.  All  these  affairs  were  attributed  to  love  magic  j 
as  was  the  case  with  Kalogusa,  his  younger  brother,  who 
subdued  Yobukwa'u's  fiancee,  Isepuna.  Another  of  the 
five  brothers,  Gilayviyaka,  with  whose  intrigues  too  we 
are  already  acquainted,  was  also  reputed  to  be  an  expert 
at  love  magic.  Many  more  examples  could  be  adduced, 
but  it  is  better  to  keep  to  the  more  notorious  cases. 

Bagido'u,  the  nephew  and  heir-apparent  of  the  prin- 
cipal chief,  an  extremely  intelligent  and  pleasant  infor- 
mant, was  ill  of  some  internal  wasting  sickness,  probably 
tuberculosis.     We  have  already  heard  of  his  domestic 



mishaps,  the  defection  of  his  handsome  wife,  who  left  him 
in  order  to  join  her  late  sister's  husband,  Manimuwa,  a 
young,  healthy  and  handsome  man  of  Wakayse  (see  ch. 
vi,  sec.  i).  She  often  visited  her  sister,  and  during  the 
latter's  last  illness  she  stayed  for  a  long  time  with  her 
brother-in-law.  The  issue  was  obvious:  Manimuwa  and 
Dakiya  formed  an  attachment  and  entered  upon  an  illicit 
intrigue,  which  ended  in  her  joining  him.  Magic  was 
blamed  for  all  the  trouble.  Even  Bagido'u  himself,  the 
deserted  husband,  would  say  that  she  was  a  good  woman, 
but  that  this  bad  man  had  first  performed  evil  magic  to 
estrange  her  from  her  husband,  and  afterwards  love  magic 
to  seduce  her.  Dakiya,  in  fact,  was  quoted  as  the  classical 
instance  of  the  power  of  magic.  "Magic  made  the  mind 
of  Dakiya  5  Manimuwa  only  remains  in  her  mind."  The 
comic  side  of  this  otherwise  sad  story  was  that  Bagido'u 
had  the  reputation  of  being  the  greatest  expert  in  the 
magic  of  love.  Of  course,  my  informants  were  ready 
with  explanations  of  the  theoretical  conundrums  involved. 
Finally  to  return  once  more  to  a  story  which  is  a  case 
in  point:  the  tragedy  of  Namwana  Guya'u's  expulsion 
from  the  village  by  the  kinsmen  of  Mitakata  (see  ch.  i, 
sec.  2).  On  my  return  after  more  than  a  year's  absence 
from  the  Trobriands,  I  met  Namwana  Guya'u  in  one  of 
the  southern  villages.  His  hatred  of  Mitakata  was  as 
implacable  as  ever.  When  I  asked  him  what  had  hap- 
pened to  his  enemy,  he  told  me  that  the  wife  of  Mitakata, 
Orayayse,  had  rejected  him  (see  pi.  25).  She  was,  as  a 
matter  of  fact,  the  first  cousin  of  her  husband's  enemy, 
and  I  knew  that  her  husband  had  sent  her  away  for 



political  reasons.  But  Namwana  Guya'u  hinted  that  he 
had  estranged  her  feelings  from  her  husband  by  magic. 
Then  he  enlarged  on  the  bad  habits  of  his  enemy.  "He 
tries  to  get  hold  of  girls  and  they  refuse  him"j  yet  he 
had  to  inform  me  that  Mitakata  had  married  Ge'umwala, 
a  young  and  pretty  girl.  ^^Boge^  ivakome  minana;  magila 
imasisi  deli;  rn^tage  bivaHy  ifayki — matauna  ib?a?^  "Al- 
ready he  gave  magic  to  her  to  eat;  her  desire  to  sleep 
together  5  but  to  marry  she  refused — he  took  her  by 
force."  Here  then  the  value  of  the  success  was  actually 
minimized  by  its  attribution  to  love  magic;  and  the  con- 
sent to  marriage,  which  cannot  be  won  by  any  such  im- 
personal means,  was  denied  to  his  enemy  by  Namwana 



In  the  Trobriands  all  positive  magic  has  a  negative 
counterpart,  in  belief  and  theory  at  least,  if  not  always 
in  reality.  The  magic  of  health  and  disease  is  the  clearest 
example,  for,  against  every  rite  and  spell  which  produces 
disease,  there  is  a  counter-magic  which  cures  it.  The  posi- 
tive magic  of  success,  which  accompanies  each  economic 
enterprise,  always  implies  the  existence  of  a  negative  pre- 
ventive rite,  which  accounts  for  the  possibility  of  failure  in 
positive  magic. 

So  it  is  not  surprising  to  find  that  love-charms  have  to 
contend  with  a  magic  which  acts  in  the  opposite  direction. 
This  is  the  magic  of  estrangement  and  oblivion,  a  depart- 
ment  of   black   magic,   generically   called   hulubwalatay 



though  in  its  narrower  meaning  this  term  designates  just 
this  magic.  The  root  bulu  on  which  the  word  is  built  is 
also  the  formative  element  "pig"  {hulukwd).  Whether 
this  means  that  the  prototype  of  all  this  magic  con- 
sists of  the  rites  which  aim  at  the  dispersion  of  pigs 
by  malicious  magic,  I  was  unable  to  decide.  The  fact 
is,  however,  that  this  magic  is  used  for  sending  away 
pigs  into  the  bush  as  well  as  for  estranging  wives  and 

Whenever  a  man  has  reasons  for  hating  a  girl  or,  even 
more  often,  her  paramour  or  her  husband,  he  will  practise 
this  magic.  It  acts  upon  her  mind,  and  turns  away  her 
affections  from  her  husband  or  lover.  She  leaves  his 
house,  leaves  her  village,  and  wanders  away.  The  in- 
formant who  gave  me  the  following  spells  told  me  that 
when  the  magic  is  administered  in  a  mild  form,  the  girl 
will  leave  her  husband  or  lover,  but  return  to  her  own 
village  and  her  own  people  3  but  if  it  is  given  in  a  large 
quantity,  and  properly,  with  minute  observation  of  ac- 
curacy in  spell  and  rite  and  in  the  taboos,  she  will  run 
away  to  the  bush,  lose  her  road,  and  maybe  disappear  for 
ever.  In  this,  as  in  other  types  of  magic,  the  man  might 
recite  the  initial  spell  only  in  order  to  produce  a  partial 
effect,  that  is  to  alienate  the  girl's  feelings  from  her  sweet- 
heart or  husband. 

The  following  formula  has  to  be  said  over  a  piece  of 
food,  or  some  tobacco,  or  some  betel-nut,  which  is  then 
given  to  the  victim.  It  is  called  kahmlova  (literally 
"causing  to  reject"),  and  may  be  freely  translated  as 



His  name  be  extinguished,  his  name  be  rejected; 

Extinguished  at  sunset,  rejected  at  sunrise; 

Rejected  at  sunset,  extinguished  at  sunrise. 

A  bird  is  on  the  baku, 

A  bird  which  is  dainty  about  its  food. 

I  make  it  rejected! 

His  mint-magic,  I  make  it  rejected. 

His  kayro'iiua  magic,  I  make  it  rejected. 

His  libomatu  magic  "         " 

His  copulation  magic        "         " 

His  horizontal   magic         "         " 

His  horizontal  movement  " 

His  answering  movement  " 

His  love  dalliance  "         " 

His  erotic  scratching         "         " 

His  caresses  of  love  "         " 

His  love  embraces  "         " 

His  bodily  embracing        "         " 

My  kabisilo'va  spell, 

It  worms  its  way  within  you, 

The  way  of  the  earth  heap  in  the  bush  gapes  open, 

The  way  of  the  refuse  heap  in  the  village  is  closed. 

In  the  opening  lines  there  is  a  play  upon  two  words^ 
both  of  which  contain  the  root  of  the  verbs  "to  extinguish'^ 
and  "to  reject."  The  spell  begins,  therefore,  with  an 
anticipation  of  its  primary  effect.  It  goes  on  to  invoke 
oblivion  openly  and  in  detail:  all  caresses  are  to  be  for- 
gotten. Two  lines  follow  to  give  power  to  the  spell, 
that  it  may  insinuate  itself  into  the  mind  of  the  girl, 
and  worm  its  way  into  all  her  thoughts.  Finally  the 
jungle  is  opened  to  the  girl  and  the  way  to  the  village 

The  following  spell,  obtained  from  the  same  infor- 
mant, was  said  to  be  a  stronger  instalment  of  this  magic. 
It  is  administered  in  the  same  way,  or  else  it  is  said  over 
some  leaves  and  coco-nut  husk,  which  are  then  burnt 
above  a  fire,  so  that  the  evil-smelling  smoke  may  enter 
the  nostrils  of  the  girl  to  be  bewitched.  Freely  translated 
it  runs: 



Woman,  woman  repelled, 

Man,  man  repelled. 

Woman,  woman  refusing, 

Man,  man  refusing. 

She  is  repelled,  she  refuses. 

Thy  man,  thy  sweetheart,  startles  and  frightens  you, 

Swear  at  him,  by  his  sister; 

Tell  him,  ''Eat  thy  filth." 

Thy  road  is  behind  the  houses 

His  face  disappears. 

The  way  of  the  earth  heap  in  the  bush  gapes  open, 

The  way  of  the  refuse  heap  in  the  village  is  closed. 

His  face  disappears; 

His  face  vanishes; 

His  face  gets  out  of  the  way; 

His  face  becomes  like  that  of  a  wood-spirit; 

His  face  becomes  as  that  of  the  ogre  Dokonikan.  . 

There  falls,  forsooth,  a  veil  over  thy  eyes 

The  evil  magic  comes, 

It  covers  completely  the  pupils  of  the  eyes. 

His  mint-magic  is  as  nought. 

His  love-magic  is  as  nought, 

His  erotic  scratchings  are  as  nought. 

His  love  caresses  are  as  nought, 

His  copulations  are  as  nought, 

His  horizontal  movement  is  as  nought, 

His  movement  in  response  is  as  nought, 

His  bodily  relaxing  is  as  nought. 

The  first  period  of  the  spell  is  then  repeated  up  to 
the  words  "she  is  repelled,  she  refuses,"  and  it  then  con- 

Thy  sun  Is  westering,  thy  sun  goes  down. 
Thy  sun  is  westering,  thy  sun  shines  aslant. 
She  is  cut  off,  she  goes  far  away, 
She  goes  far  away,  she  is  cut  off. 

The  only  point  in  this  formula  which  may  need  ex- 
planation is  the  sentence  inviting  the  girl  to  swear  by  his 
sister  at  her  husband.  Such  abuse  is  one  of  the  deadliest 
offences,  and  especially  so  between  husband  and  wife. 
We  shall  speak  about  it  in  chapter  xiii. 

Although  the  magic  of  the  buluhwalata  is  negative  in 
regard  to  love  magic,  yet  the  evil  done  by  it  cannot  be 



undone  by  love  formulas.  But  if  a  man,  in  passing  anger,, 
should  have  done  great  injury  to  a  home  by  practising 
this  evil  magic,  there  is,  within  its  own  system,  a  possible 
remedy  in  the  "fetching  back"  formula,  the  katuyumaya- 
fmla  {katuyufnall — an  archaic  form  of  kd*ifnaUy  the  ordi- 
nary form  for  "return,  give  back").  This  formula  has  to 
be  spoken  in  the  open,  owadola  wala  ("just  in  the 
mouth"),  as  the  natives  say.  But  the  magician  has  ta 
recite  it  towards  the  various  points  of  the  compass  suc- 
cessively, so  that  the  magical  virtue  may  reach  the  woman 
wherever  she  may  be  wandering  in  the  bush.  This 
formula  also  begins  by  a  play  on  words  containing  the 
formative  roots  of  the  verbs  "to  make  up"  and  "to  at- 
tract."   Then  follows: — 

May  my  buluhivalata  be  blunt! 

May  my  fetching  magic  be  keen! 

I  am  fetching  back! 

From  the  north-eastern  quarter,  I  am  fetching  back; 

From  the  south-eastern  quarter,  I  am  fetching  back; 

From  the  jungle  of  Ulawola,  I  am  fetching  back; 

From  the  jungle  of  Tepila,  I  am  fetching  back; 

The  one  who  is  like  a  woodsprite,  I  am  fetching  back; 

From  the  stone  heaps,  I  am  fetching  back; 

From  the  boundary  stone  walls,  I  am  fetching  back; 

From  the  fern  thickets,  I  am  fetching  back; 

With  the  smell  of  mint  magic,  I  am  fetching  back; 

I  am  fetching  back  thy  mind,  O  woman! 

Come  back  to  us-thy-mother. 

Come  back  to  us-thy-father. 

Tear  open  the  house. 

Tease  and  tear  off  my  hair, 

Tread  on  my  floor, 

And  lie  on  my  bed, 

Come  and  pass  over  the  threshold, 

Come  and  remain  at  thy  dung-heap, 

Let  us  continue  to  dwell  together, 

Within  our  house. 

Here  the  intention  of  the  opening  sentences  is  clear, 
the  evil  magic  is  to  be  impotent,  the  good  magic  effective. 



The  truant  is  called  back  from  the  several  points  of  the 
compass  and  from  the  two  parts  of  the  jungle  (Ulawola 
and  Tepila),  one  in  the  North  and  the  other  in  the 
South,  which,  surrounded  by  marshes  {dumia)^  are  per- 
haps the  most  inaccessible  spots  in  the  main  island  of  the 
Trobriands,  and  are  regarded  as  the  home  of  the  bush  pig. 
The  last  part,  as  the  reader  has  probably  noticed,  is  built 
on  the  same  pattern  as  the  formula  of  the  love  magic. 
The  compound  words  "us-thy-mother,"  "us-thy-father" 
are  constructed  with  the  inclusive  dual  possessive  ma. 
Thus  by  the  magical  virtue  of  this  charm  the  man  and 
woman  should  not  only  be  as  husband  and  wife  should  be 
to  one  another  in  the  conjugal  house,  but  as  the  father 
and  mother  in  the  parental  home  also. 

This  formula  is  said  to  be  very  powerful,  and  to  have 
restored  married  happiness  to  scores  of  broken  households. 

With  the  pious  hope  that  this  is  true  we  may  conclude 
the  present  chapter. 




So  far  we  have  studied  the  psychology  of  sex  as  it  is 
embodied  in  stereotyped  behaviour  5  that  is,  in  customs, 
institutions,  and  in  magic.  In  short,  in  order  to  gauge 
his  attitude  towards  sex,  we  have  studied  how  a  Tro- 
briander  acts.  Now  we  must  turn  to  such  manifestations 
of  sexual  ideas  and  feelings  as  are  to  be  found  in  dreams, 
day-dreams,  and  folk-tales  j  that  is,  in  his  free  and  set 
fantasies  about  the  past,  about  the  future,  about  distant 
countries,  and  above  all  about  his  life  in  the  next  world. 
This  chapter  will  be  simply  a  record  of  collected  data, 
but  even  such  records  are  inevitably  made  with  certain 
problems  in  view  and  are  influenced  by  the  mental  atti- 
tude of  the  recorder.  Some  academic  pedants  are  apt  to 
contemn  any  signs  of  a  wider  knowledge  or  of  intelligence 
on  the  part  of  an  observer  of  fact.  Theory  should  be 
eliminated  from  field-work,  so  they  say  5  but  to  my  mind 
this  is  mere  intellectual  hypocrisy,  under  the  cloak  of 
purism.  The  observations  which  I  have  made  were  not 
recorded  by  some  mechanical  device  or  apparatus,  but 
were  made  with  my  own  eyes  and  ears,  and  controlled 
by  my  own  brain.  The  trick  of  relevant  observation  con- 
sists, in  fact,  in  this  very  control.  It  is  quite  inevitable 
that  my  field-work  should  have  been  affected  by  my  ideas, 



interests,  and  even  prejudices.  The  honest  way  is  to 
state  them  so  that  they  may  be  more  easily  detected  and, 
if  it  appears  necessary,  discounted  and  eliminated.  The 
other  way  is  to  conceal  them  as  skilfully  as  possible. 

The  observations  to  be  recorded  in  this  chapter  were 
mostly  done  before  my  psycho-analytic  interest  was 
stimulated.  In  my  earlier  work,  I  looked  upon  folk-lore 
as  a  direct  expression  of  social  and  cultural  conditions. 
When  I  found  a  certain  motive,  such  as  that  of  incest  or 
breach  of  exogamy,  in  folk-lore,  I  felt  that  it  was  puz- 
zling, but  I  did  not  see  that  it  was  significant.  I  treated 
it  as  an  exception  which  confirms  the  rule,  rather  than  as 
a  clue  to  further  inquiry  into  typical  social  taboos  and 
repressions.  I  paid  little  attention  to  the  investigation  of 
dreams,  of  day-dreams,  and  of  free  fantasies.  It  did 
not  take  me  long  to  see  that  dreams  did  not  play  the  part 
among  the  Trobrianders  ascribed  to  them  by  Tylor  and 
others,  and  after  that  I  did  not  trouble  much  more  about 

Later  only,  stimulated  by  some  literature  sent  to  me  by 
Dr.  C.  G.  Seligman  and  by  his  advice,  did  I  begin  to  test 
Freud's  theory  of  dreams  as  the  expression  of  "repressed" 
wishes  and  of  the  "unconscious,"  as  the  negative  of 
acknowledged  and  ofiicial  principle  and  morality.  In 
doing  this,  I  came  upon  important  correlations  between 
folk-lore  and  fancy  on  the  one  hand,  and  social  organiza- 
tion on  the  other  j  and  was  able  to  discover  certain  under- 
currents of  desire  and  inclination  running  counter  to  the 
established  order  of  ideas  and  sentiments,  which  appear, 
on  the  surface,  insignificant  and  capricious,  but  which  are 


in  reality  of  great  sociological  importance/  That  in  the 
course  of  my  inquiry  I  had  to  reject  far  more  of  psycho- 
analytic doctrine  than  I  could  accept  does  not  in  any  way 
diminish  my  obligation  5  and  my  results  showed  beyond 
all  doubt  how  even  a  theory  which  has,  in  the  light  of 
investigation,  to  be  partly  rejected  can  stimulate  and 

The  source  of  illicit  feelings  and  inclinations  is  to  be 
found  in  the  social  taboos  of  a  community.  And  the 
failure,  indeed  the  explicit  disinclination,  of  psycho- 
analysts to  take  social  organization  seriously,  stultifies 
almost  completely  their  own  application  of  their  doctrine 
to  anthropology.* 

Though  no  reference  will  be  made  to  these  points  in 
what  follows,  it  was  fairer  to  indicate  them  at  the  start, 
as  they  have  played  some  part  in  the  discovery  and  a  con- 
siderable part  in  the  presentation  of  the  material  given  in 
this  and  in  the  following  chapters. 


Spontaneous  dreams  are  not  of  any  great  importance 
in  the  life  of  the  Trobrianders.  On  the  whole  the  natives 
appear  to  dream  but  seldom,  have  little  interest  in  their 
dreams,  and  do  not  often  tell  their  experiences  on  waking 
or  refer  to  dreams  in  order  to  explain  a  belief  or  justify 

1  Part  of  my  results  I  have  published  in  the  two  books  on  Crime  and 
Custom  and  Sex  and  Repression. 

2  The  reader  will  find  this  argument  substantiated  in  my  Sex  and  Re- 



a  line  of  conduct.  No  prophetic  meaning  is  ascribed  to 
ordinary  dreams,  nor  is  there  any  system  or  code  for  their 
symbolic  interpretation. 

Our  interest  is  mainly  in  sexual  and  erotic  dreams  3  but, 
in  order  to  understand  these,  it  is  necessary  to  form  some 
idea  of  the  native's  attitude  to  dreams  in  general.  And 
at  the  outset  it  must  be  understood  that  by  "ordinary"  or 
"free"  dreams,  I  mean  spontaneous  visions  arising  in 
sleep,  in  response  to  physiological  stimuli,  to  moods  and 
emotional  experiences,  to  memories  of  the  day  and  of  the 
past.  Such  is  the  material  of  the  dreams  which  come  to 
every  human  being,  and  they  play,  as  I  have  said,  a  small 
part  in  Trobriand  culture,  and  are  apparently  rare  and 
easily  forgotten. 

Quite  another  class  of  dreams  are  those  which  are 
prescribed  and  defined  by  custom.  These  are  expected 
of  certain  people  by  virtue  of  their  position  or  of  some 
task  that  they  have  undertaken,  as  a  consequence  of  magic 
which  they  have  performed,  or  which  has  been  performed 
upon  them,  or  of  the  influence  of  spiritual  beings.  Such 
stereotyped  or  standardized  dreams  are  expected,  hoped 
for,  and  awaited  j  and  this  might  easily  account  for  the 
frequency  of  their  occurrence  and  for  the  ease  with  which 
they  are  remembered. 

It  should  be  noted  that  the  distinction  between  free 
and  standardized  dreams  is  not  made  in  native  termi- 
nology nor  even  formulated  in  native  doctrine.  But  as 
will  presently  be  seen,  it  is  embodied  in  behaviour  and 
in  the  general  attitude  towards  dreams. 

In  standardized  dreams,  a  prominent  part  is  played  by 



nsions  of  departed  spirits.  They  appear  to  people  in 
sleep  under  appropriate  circumstances  and  at  certain 
seasons.  This  is  in  fact  one  of  the  chief  ways  in  which 
they  manifest  their  existence  to  the  living.  But  not  all 
dreams  about  the  departed  are  regarded  as  true.  The 
appearance  may  be  either  a  sasofa  (lie,  illusion)  or  a  real 
haloma  (spirit).  Real  spirits  always  come  with  a  pur- 
pose and  under  conditions  in  which  they  can  properly  be 
expected.  Thus  if  a  recently  dead  person  appears  in 
sleep  to  a  surviving  relative,  giving  him  some  important 
message  or  announcing  his  death  at  a  distance — ^such  a 
dream  is  true.  Or  when  a  well-known  seer  or  spiritistic 
medium  is  visited  in  his  sleep  and  next  day  announces  the 
message  he  has  received,  no  one  doubts  the  reality  of  his 
vision.  Or  when  people  go  to  the  island  of  Tuma  and 
there  dream  of  dead  relatives,  no  doubt  exists  in  the  na- 
tive mind  that  these  really  have  appeared  to  them.  Or 
again,  in  the  moon  of  milamalay  when  the  spirits  of  the 
dead  return  to  the  villages,  they  will  appear  to  the  head- 
man, or  to  some  other  notable  person,  in  his  sleep  and 
convey  to  him  their  wishes.  Several  such  nocturnal  visits 
occurred  during  my  residence  in  the  Trobriands.^  At 
times  a  substitution  will  take  place,  as  when  an  old  woman 
appeared  to  her  son  and  told  him  that  she  was  dead,  while, 
in  reality,  it  was  the  mother  of  another  boy  working  on 
the  same  plantation  who  had  died  in  the  distant  Trobri- 
ands.  But  there  are  also  visions  of  dead  friends  and  rela- 
tives who  tell  untrue  things,  announce  events  which  never 

1  Cf.  my  article  in  the  Journ.  of  the  R.  Anthrop.  Inst.,  1916,  sec.  3,  pp. 
36a  sq. 



happened,  or  behave  in  an  unseemly  manner.  Such 
dreams  are  not  caused  by  spirits,  who,  say  the  natives, 
have  nothing  to  do  with  themj  and  they  are  not  true. 

Another  important  type  of  dream  in  which  spirits  play 
a  part  are  those  which  are  Initiated  by  some  condition  in 
the  dreamer.  Whereas  In  visitations  at  the  mllamala^  or 
from  the  spirit  island  of  Tuma,  or  directly  after  the  death 
of  some  person,  it  Is  the  recently  deceased  who  are  seen, 
in  this  other  class  of  dreams  ancestral  spirits  of  old  stand- 
ing are  active.  Thus  when  a  child  Is  to  be  born  (see  ch. 
viii),  the  spirit  of  an  ancestress  appears  and  announces  the 
coming  Incarnation.  More  Important  are  the  visits  of 
ancestral  spirits  associated  with  the  art  of  magic,  in  which 
spirits  play  a  considerable  part.  Many  spells  begin  with 
a  list  of  persons  who  have  at  one  time  wielded  this  magic. 
Such  lists  of  ancestral  names  are  perhaps  the  most  uni- 
versal feature  of  Trobriand  spells.  In  certain  magical 
rites.,  spirits  receive  offerings  of  food  with  a  short  invo- 
cation j  In  return  they  show  some  concern  for  the  aims  of 
the  rite  and  communicate  with  the  magician,  thus  afFect- 
Ing  not  only  the  ritual  but  also  the  practical  activity  which 
goes  with  it.  For  a  magician  has  In  most  cases  not  merely 
to  utter  the  spell  and  perform  the  ritual,  but  also  com- 
prehensively to  control  the  practical  activity  with  which 
his  magic  is  connected. 

To  put  it  more  concretely:  the  ex  ojficio  leader  of  a 
kula  expedition,  the  traditional  organizer  of  fishing  and 
hunting,  the  hereditary  master-In-charge  of  the  gardens. 
Invariably  wields  the  magic  proper  to  these  pursuits.  In 
virtue  of  both  offices,  he  Is  credited  with  deeper  knowl- 



edge  and  greater  foresight  than  his  associates.  For  one 
thing,  he  is  liable,  under  the  control  of  ancestral  spirits, 
to  dream  about  his  enterprise.  Thus  the  master  of  the 
gardens,  in  dreams  inspired  by  his  predecessors  in  office, 
will  learn  of  impending  drought  or  rain,  and  he  will  give 
advice  and  orders  accordingly.  The  fishing  magician 
hears  from  his  ancestral  spirit  of  shoals  coming  through 
this  or  that  passage  in  the  reef,  or  swimming  along  a  cer- 
tain channel  on  the  lagoon,  and  he  will  order  his  team  to 
set  out  in  the  morning  and  to  cast  their  nets  at  the  appro- 
priate spot  and  hour.^ 

A  cynical  ethnographer  might  be  tempted  to  suspect 
that  such  prophetic  dreams  are  double-edged:  when  they 
come  true,  this  is  not  only  practically  useful,  but  proves 
the  goodwill  of  ancestors  and  the  validity  of  magic  5  when 
they  do  not  come  true,  it  is  a  sign  that  the  spirits  are  angry 
and  that  they  are  punishing  the  community  for  some  rea- 
son, and  still  the  truth  of  magical  tradition  is  upheld. 
The  dream  in  any  case  serves  its  purpose  to  the  magician. 
And  indeed,  in  these  latter  days  of  disbelief  and  decay 
of  custom,  the  spirits  have  frequent  occasion  to  become 
angry,  and  the  magician  needs  all  the  means  at  his  dis- 
posal to  vindicate  his  personal  authority  and  to  maintain 
belief  in  his  powers.  But  in  the  old  days,  as  even  now  in 
districts  with  an  unimpaired  tradition,  there  was  no  ques- 

1  Compare  the  more  detailed  descriptions  of  these  facts  given  in  other 
places:  for  the  part  played  by  ancestral  spirits  in  magic,  article  on 
"Baloma:  The  Spirits  of  the  Dead  in  the  Trobriand  Islands,"  Journal  of 
the  Royal  Anthropological  Institute,  1916,  pp.  384-482;  for  prophetic 
dreams,  p.  366;  for  milamala  dreams,  p.  379;  for  pregnancy  dreams,  chap, 
vii  of  this  book  and  "Baloma,"  pp.  406-18;  for  the  psychology  of  magical 
filiation  and  the  relation  between  magic  and  myth,  Myth  in  Primitive 
Psychology,  and  chap,  xii  of  Argonauts  of  the  Western  Pacific. 


tion  of  made-up  dreams.  In  any  case  they  were  not  born 
of  anxiety  for  his  own  position,  but  of  care  for  the  success 
of  the  enterprise  he  was  controlling.  The  garden  magi- 
cian, the  head  fisherman,  the  leader  of  an  expedition, 
identifies  himself  to  a  great  extent  in  ambition,  in  hope, 
and  in  eflFort,  with  the  communal  interest.  He  is  ex- 
tremely keen  that  all  should  go  well,  that  his  village 
should  surpass  all  others,  that  his  ambition  and  pride 
should  be  justified  and  win  the  day. 

There  are  also  dream  revelations  connected  with  the 
black  magic  by  which  disease  and  death  are  produced. 
Here  it  is  the  victim  who  has  the  vision,  and,  in  fact,  this 
is  one  of  the  ways  of  detecting  which  sorcerer,  by  evil 
spells  and  rites,  has  caused  his  illness.  Since  the  sick  man 
always  suspects  one  or  other  among  his  enemies  of  prac- 
tising or  of  purchasing  sorcery,  it  is  no  wonder  that  such 
dreams  reveal  a  culprit.  However,  they  are  naturally  not 
regarded  as  "subjective,"  but  as  a  by-product  of  the  evil 

Yet  another  class  of  dreams,  to  which  allusion  has 
already  been  made  (ch.  xi,  sec.  7),  is  the  dream  induced 
by  magic  not  indirectly  and  secondarily,  but  as  its  main 
effect.  The  natives  have  a  definite  theory  of  magic  acting 
through  dreams  upon  the  human  mind.  In  connection 
with  the  half-commercial,  half -ceremonial  exchange  of 
the  kulay  the  magic  of  compulsion  to  generosity  (the 
mwasila)  will  be  performed,  and  this  acts  upon  the  mind 
of  the  other  party  to  the  transaction.  Although  distant 
hundreds  of  miles  and  separated  by  stormy  seas  and 
reefs,  the  latter  will  be  visited  by  the  "dream  response" 



(kirisala)  of  this  magic.  He  will  dream  agreeably  and 
benevolently  of  the  magic  maker,  his  mind  (nanola)  will 
soften  towards  him,  and  he  will  be  generous  in  his  prepa- 
ration of  gifts/ 

Some  forms  of  love  magic  described  in  the  previous 
chapter  are  based  on  the  same  assumption.  Erotic  dreams 
(kirisala)  are  the  response  to  certain  charms.  Dreams  of 
a  sexual  or  erotic  nature  are  in  fact  always  attributed  to 
magic.  A  boy  or  girl  dreams  of  a  person  of  the  opposite 
sexj  this  means  that  this  person  has  performed  love  magic. 
A  boy  dreams  that  a  certain  girl  enters  his  house,  speaks 
to  him,  approaches  him,  lies  beside  him  on  the  mat, 
though  before  she  had  been  unwilling  to  talk  to  him  or 
even  to  look  at  him.  Her  shyness  has  been  only  pretence. 
All  the  time  she  was  preparing  or  even  performing  magic. 
In  the  dream,  she  is  loving  and  submissive  j  she  permits 
all  caresses  and  the  most  intimate  approach.  The  boy 
wakes  up:  "It  is  all  an  illusion  (sasopa,  literally,  a  lie)," 
he  thinks.  "But  no,  there  is  seminal  fluid  spilt  over  the 
mat."  The  girl,  in  her  dream-form,  has  been  there.  He 
knows  that  she  makes  magic  for  him  and  already  is  half- 
inclined  to  pursue  her.  This  is  an  account,  noted  down 
partly  in  native  as  it  was  given  to  me,  from  the  man's 
point  of  viewj  but  an  analogous  dream  would  come  to  a 
girl.  It  is  characteristic  that  the  dream  takes  place,  not 
in  the  mind  of  the  performer,  but  in  that  of  his  victim. 

A  married  man  would  try  to  conceal  such  visitations 

1 1  am  afraid  I  have  not  made  this  point  quite  clear  in  Argonauts  of 
the  Western  Pacific  (cf.,  however,  pp.  102,  202,  203,  360,  and  361).  Most 
spells  of  the  kula  magic  act  at  a  distance  upon  the  partner's  mind,  even 
as  they  are  recited  at  home. 



from  his  wife,  for  she  would  be  angry  because  he  had  had 
congress  in  dreams  with  another  woman.  Also  she  would 
know  that  the  other  woman  had  made  magic  and  would 
be  specially  watchful,  so  that  the  man  would  find  it  diffi- 
cult to  follow  up  the  dream  intrigue. 

One  very  important  class  of  erotic  dreams  are  those  of 
an  incestuous  nature.  There  are,  however,  serious  diffi- 
culties in  the  way  of  any  inquiry  about  them.  Free  and 
easy  as  these  natives  are,  by  custom  and  convention,  in 
most  sexual  matters,  they  become  extremely  sensitive  and 
prudish  whenever  their  specific  sexual  taboos  are  touched 
upon.  This  is  especially  true  of  incest  taboos,  and  above 
all  of  that  one  concerning  the  brother-sister  relation.  It 
would  have  been  quite  impossible  for  me  to  inquire  di- 
rectly into  the  incestuous  dream  experiences  of  any  of  my 
informants  5  but  even  the  general  question,  whether  inces- 
tuous dreams  occurred,  would  be  met  with  indignation  or 
vehement  denial.  Only  by  dint  of  very  gradual  and 
guarded  inquiry  among  my  most  trustworthy  informants, 
was  I  able  to  find  out  that  such  dreams  do  occur  and  that, 
in  fact,  they  are  a  well-known  nuisance.  "A  man  is  some- 
times sad,  ashamed  and  ill-tempered.  Why?  Because 
he  has  dreamed  that  he  had  connection  with  his  sister," 
and  "This  made  me  feel  ashamed,"  such  a  man  would 
say.  The  fact  that  the  incestuous  dream,  especially  as 
between  brother  and  sister,  occurs  frequently  and  disturbs 
the  minds  of  the  natives  considerably,  accounts  in  part  for 
!he  strong  emotional  reaction  to  any  inquiry  into  the  sub- 
ject. The  lure  of  "forbidden  fruit,"  which  everywhere 
haunts  men  in  dreams  and  day-dreams,  suggests  inces- 



tuous  motives  in  Trobriand  folk-tales  and  has  for  ever 
associated  love  and  the  magic  of  love  with  the  myth  of 
incest  (ch.  xiv). 

It  is  important  to  note  that,  as  we  shall  see  presently, 
even  incestuous  erotic  dreams  are  excused  on  the  ground 
that  some  magic  has  been  misapplied,  accidentally  mis- 
directed, or  wrongly  performed  with  regard  to  the 

We  are  now  in  a  position  to  formulate  more  precisely 
the  native  attitude  towards  dreams.  All  true  dreams  are 
in  response  to  magic  or  to  spiritual  influence,  and  are  not 
spontaneous.  The  distinction  between  free  or  spontaneous 
dreams  on  the  one  hand  and  stereotyped  dreams  on  the 
other,  corresponds  roughly  to  the  native  distinction  be- 
tween dreams  which  are  sasofa  (a  lie  or  illusion),  and 
those  which  are  induced  by  magic  or  spirits — that  is,  are 
true,  relevant  and  prophetic  5  or  again  to  the  difference 
between  dreams  which  come  without,  and  those  which 
come  with  an  u*ula  (cause  or  reason).  While  the  natives 
do  not  attach  much  importance  to  spontaneous  dreams, 
they  regard  the  others  as  of  the  same  substance  as  magical 
influence  and  as  possessing  a  reality  comparable  to  that  of 
the  spirit  world.  The  inconsistencies  and  lacunse  in  their 
beliefs  about  dreams  are  similar  to  those  found  in  their 
ideas  of  an  after-life  in  a  disembodied  state.  Most  con- 
spicuous in  their  belief,  perhaps,  is  the  view  that  magic 
first  realizes  its  effect  in  dreams  which,  by  influencing  the 
mind,  can  thus  bring  about  objective  changes  and  events. 
Thus  all  "true"  dreams  may  be  actually  prophetic. 

Another  interesting  link  between  dreams  and  the  mys- 



tical  doctrine  of  the  Trobriander  is  the  recurrence  o£ 
clairvoyant  visions  in  myths  and  folk-tales — a  subject 
only  to  be  touched  on  here.  Thus  we  shall  see  in  the 
myth  of  the  origins  of  love,  that  the  man  from  Iwa  is  led 
to  discover  the  tragic  double  suicide  and  the  magical  spray 
of  mint  by  a  dream  of  what  has  occurred  in  the  grotto. 
In  a  myth  about  the  origins  of  sorcery,  a  brother  sees  in 
a  dream  that  his  sister  has  been  killed  by  the  primeval 
crab-wizard.  In  a  folk-tale  to  be  related  presently,  about 
the  snake  and  the  two  women,  a  man  from  Wawela 
dreams  of  the  distressed  maiden  and  comes  to  her  rescue. 
In  other  folk-tales,  events  happening  in  a  different  place 
are  visualized,  or  a  rhyme  sung  at  a  distance  acts  as  a 
spell  and  produces  day-dreams. 

It  is  clear  that  dream,  day-dream,  magical  incantation, 
realization  by  ritual  and  mythological  precedent  are 
welded  into  an  interlocking  system  of  self -confirmatory 
realities.  Dreaming  is  conceived  as  one  of  the  real  mani- 
festations of  magic,  and,  as  it  is  a  definite  personal  expe- 
rience, it  brings  home  the  efficacy  of  the  specific  magic 
employed.  It  is  thus  an  important  empirical  link  in  the 
doctrine  of  magical  efficiency  and  of  mythological  reality, 
one  which  should  not  be  overlooked  if  we  want  to  under- 
stand the  psychology  of  belief  among  the  Trobrianders. 

The  subject  of  dreams  in  general,  and  erotic  dreams  in 
particular,  throws  valuable  light  on  the  natives'  flow  of 
imagination  and  desire.  The  psychology  of  their  dreams 
is  closely  parallel  to  that  of  romantic  love  and  of  "falling 
in  love."  In  native  tradition  and  official  doctrine  we  find 
a  distrust  of  spontaneous  and  free  elements,  of  untram- 



melled  and  unprescribed  impulses  in  conduct.  Similarly 
we  find  that  the  legitimate  and  true  in  dreams  is  always 
due  to  some  definite  motive,  once  for  all  laid  down  by 
tradition  j  and  among  the  motives  by  far  the  most  impor- 
tant is  magic. 

That  this  official  view  does  not  cover  the  facts,  that  it 
is  not  completely  true  to  them,  is  obvious.  In  dreams 
as  in  romantic  love  and  love  impulse,  human  nature 
breaks  through  and  flatly  contradicts  dogma,  doctrine,  and 
tradition.  Incestuous  dreams  are  the  best  example  of  this. 
Established  doctrine  in  the  Trobriands  as  elsewhere  makes 
use  of  man's  susceptibility  to  authoritative  suggestion,  and 
of  his  tendency  to  be  impressed  by  positive  instances  and 
to  forget  negative  ones.  It  first  makes  the  distinction 
between  true  and  false  dreams  3  then  minimizes,  explains 
away,  or  forgets  contradictory  instances,  while  using  all 
confirmatory  ones  as  further  proof  of  its  validity.  Thus 
incest,  whether  in  myth,  reality,  or  dream,  is  always  ex- 
plained by  an  accidental  misuse  of  magic.  This  motive  is 
as  clear  and  prominent  in  the  Trobriand  story  of  incest  as 
in  our  own  myth  of  Tristan  and  Isolde. 


In  passing  to  the  expression  of  sex  in  folk-lore,  we  must 
bear  in  mind  that  Trobriand  manners  do  not  ban  sex  as 
a  subject  for  conversation,  save  in  the  presence  of  certain 
tabooed  relatives,  and  Trobriand  morals  do  not  condemn 
extra-marital  intercourse,  except  in  the  forms  of  adultery 



and  incest.  The  attraction  of  the  subject  and  its  piquancy 
is  not  due,  therefore,  to  the  feeling  that  it  is  socially  and 
artificially  forbidden.  And  yet  there  is  no  doubt  that  the 
natives  regard  bawdiness  as  "improper"  j  that  there  is  a 
certain  strain  about  it,  barriers  to  be  broken  and  a  shyness 
to  overcome  and  a  corresponding  enjoyment  in  getting  rid 
of  the  strain,  breaking  the  barriers  and  overcoming  the 

It  follows  from  this  emotional  attitude  that  sex  is  sel- 
dom treated  crudely  and  brutally  j  that  there  is  a  con- 
siderable difference  in  the  manner  and  tone  adopted  to- 
wards it  by,  for  instance,  a  coarse  fellow  of  low  rank  who 
has  no  social  dignity  to  maintain,  and  the  descendant  of 
chieftains  who  touches  sexual  subjects,  but  touches  them 
lightly,  with  refinement,  subtlety,  or  wit.  In  short,  man- 
ners exist  in  this  matter  and  are  socially  valued  and  graded 
according  to  rank.  Sex,  like  excretory  functions  and 
nudity,  is  not  felt  or  regarded  as  "natural,"  but  rather  as 
naturally  to  be  avoided  in  public  and  open  conversation, 
and  always  to  be  concealed  from  others  in  behaviour  3 
hence,  to  repeat,  the  "improper"  interest  in  occasional 

Folk-lore,  the  systematized  forms  of  oral  and  intel- 
lectual tradition,  includes  significant  games  and  sports, 
carving  and  decorative  art,  folk-tales,  typical  sayings, 
jokes,  and  swearing.  In  the  Trobriands,  representations 
of  sexual  matters  are  completely  absent  from  decorative 
art  and  from  dancing.  The  only  exceptions  to  this  rule 
are  to  be  found  in  certain  artistically  inferior  modern 
productions,  invented  under  the  decomposing  influence  of 



European  culture,  though  not  in  any  way  influenced  by 
European  patterns.  Dancing  and  decorative  art,  there- 
fore, do  not  fall  within  our  scope.  For  the  rest,  sexual 
elements  in  games  and  sports  have  already  been  discussed, 
sex  in  joking  and  swearing  will  be  dealt  with  in  the  next 
chapter,  and  there  remain,  for  our  present  consideration, 
sexual  folk-tales  and  the  bawdy  figures  and  sayings  con- 
nected with  "cat's-cradles." 

String  figures  or  cat's-cradles  {ninikula)  are  played  by 
children  and  adults  in  the  day  time  during  the  rainy 
months  from  November  to  January,  that  is,  in  the  sea- 
son when  the  evenings  are  passed  in  reciting  folk-tales. 
On  a  wet  day,  a  group  of  people  will  sit  under  the  over- 
hanging roof  of  a  yam  house  or  on  a  covered  platform 
and  one  will  display  his  skill  to  an  admiring  audience. 
Each  set  of  figures  has  a  name,  a  story,  and  an  interpre- 
tation. Some  also  have  a  ditty  (vimivina)^  which  is 
chanted  while  the  artist  evolves  and  manipulates  the 
figure.  Many  sets  are  completely  devoid  of  sex  interest. 
Among  the  dozen  or  so  which  I  have  recorded  the  fol- 
lowing ones  show  pornographic  details.^ 

In  kala  kasesa  Ba^u  (the  clitoris  of  Ba'u)  the  per- 
former, after  preliminary  manipulations,  produces  a  de- 
sign (Diagr.  A,  in  Fig.  Ill)  in  which  two  large  loops  are 
formed  in  the  main  plane  of  the  figure,  while  at  the  bot- 
tom of  each,  a  smaller  loop  sticks  out  at  right  angles  to 
the  main  plane.  The  large  loops  each  represent  a  vulva 
and  the  smaller  ones  a  clitoris.    There  is  obviously  a  little 

1 1  did  not  make  any  attempt  to  record  the  technique  of  cat's-cradles. 
In  each  set  I  merely  recorded  the  significant  figure  or  figures,  the  mean- 
ing and  the  psychology. 







anatomical  inaccuracy  in  this  arrangement,  since  in  nature 
there  is  only  one  organ  and  in  this  the  clitoris  is  placed  at 
the  top  and  not  at  the  bottom  of  the  vulva.  But,  no 
doubt,  Ba'u  was  an  anomaly. 

The  figure  complete,  the  artist  skilfully  wriggles  his 
fingers,  producing  a  movement  first  in  one  and  then  in 
the  other  of  the  clitoris  loops.  While  thus  engaged,  he 
recites  rhythmically,  but  not  without  jocular  inflections, 
the  following  words: 

Kala  kasesa         Ba^u  (repeated) 
Her   clitoris  of  Ba'u  (repeated) 
Kam  kasesam,  kam  kasesamy  etc. 
Thy  clitoris,    thine,  etc. 

which  might  be  freely  rendered:  "Look,  that  is  the  cli- 
toris of  Ba'u,  that  is  her  clitoris.  O  Ba'u,  thy  clitoris,  O 
thy  clitoris!"  The  movements  and  song  are  repeated  a 
number  of  times,  to  the  great  amusement  of  both  onlook- 
ers and  artist  5  then  the  figure  is  undone,  to  a  repetition 
of  the  words: 

Syagara  dyaytu  dyaytUy  Syagara  dyaytu  dyaytUy  etc. 
These  words  are  merely  onomatopoetic,  imitating  the 
rhythmic  beat  of  the  drums  in  dance  music.  Ba'u  is  ob- 
viously a  female  personality,  but  nothing  is  known  of  her 
besides  what  we  learn  from  this  performance.  The  cli- 
toris is  a  favourite  subject  for  jokes,  stories,  and  allusions. 
It  is  often  used  in  fars  fro  toto  figures  of  speech  and  is 
regarded  as  a  specially  attractive  and  funny  detail  in  the 
female  organism. 



A  short  set,  entitled  with  some  directness  and  sim- 
plicity "copulation"  {kayta)^  represents  this  function  in 
a  naturally  somewhat  conventionalized  manner.  The 
strings  (Diagr.  B,  in  Fig.  Ill)  are  made  to  form  a  dou- 
ble cross,  in  which  the  horizontal  arm  represents  the 
woman  and  the  vertical  the  man.  The  strings  are  then 
pulled  so  that  the  centre  loop,  which  represents  the  geni- 
tals, moves  rapidly,  up  and  down,  and  right  and  left,  and 
this,  to  the  imagination  of  the  amused  onlookers,  stands 
for  the  characteristic  motion  in  sexual  congress.  There 
is  no  ditty  to  this  set. 

Tokay  last y  the  adulterer  (C,  in  Fig.  Ill),  is  a  more 
complicated  set  and  requires  both  hands,  the  two  big  toes 
and  the  heels  for  its  composition.  The  accompanying 
commentary  is  just  spoken  in  ordinary  prose.  The  first 
figure  (G,  i)  is  formed,  in  its  significant  section,  of  two 
isosceles  triangles,  one  above  the  other  and  touching  by 
the  apex.  These  triangles  represent  the  adulterer  and  the 
wife  engaged  in  the  act  of  copulation.  To  indicate  this, 
strings  are  manipulated  so  that  the  point  of  contact  moves 
up  and  down,  while  each  triangle  in  turn  increases  and 
decreases  in  size.  At  the  same  time  the  artist  declares  in 
unambiguous  language:  "This  is  the  adulterer  j  this  is  the 
wife;  they  copulate."  The  figure  will  not  be  devoid  of 
significance  to  those  acquainted  with  the  native  method  of 
copulation  described  above  (ch.  x,  sec.  12). 

The  figure  is  then  dissolved  to  the  artist's  comment: 
tokaylasi  bila  wa  hagula,  "the  adulterer  goes  to  the  gar- 
den." He  then  adds:  layla  la  mwala,  "the  husband 
comes" — ^and  by  that  time  the  strings  form  a  figure  con- 



sisting  of  two  loops  placed  at  an  angle  (C,  2).  As  these 
loops  begin  to  move  in  their  turn,  each  shrinking  and 
expanding  (C,  3  and  4),  he  says  placidly:  Ikayta  la 
kwavciy  "he  has  intercourse  with  his  wife."  Thus  adul- 
tery in  the  Trobriands  is  represented  by  two  triangles 
instead  of  one. 

One  more  cat's-cradle  of  a  purely  anatomical  character 
has  still  to  be  mentioned.  It  is  named  after  the  hero 
Sikwemtuya,  though  this  personality  has  no  other  claim 
to  fame  than  his  cat's-cradle.  Four  loops  symmetrically 
disposed  around  the  central  point  (D,  in  Fig.  Ill)  repre- 
sent the  head,  the  legs  and  the  two  testicles  of  Sikwem- 
tuya.    Then  this  duologue  is  sung: 

^^Sikwemtuyay  Sikwemtuya  avaka  kuvagi?^^ 
"Sikwemtuya,  Sikwemtuya  what   art  thou  doing?" 
^^Bayamata  la     kayhaha  guya^u,^^ 

"I  guard     the  decorated  food  of  the  chief." 
^^Bagise         fuwamP^ 
^^May  I  see  your  testicles?" 

With  the  last  words,  one  of  the  testicles  begins  to  en- 
large and  to  move  slowly,  while  Sikv/emtuya,  through  the 
mouth  of  the  artist,  utters  a  self-satisfied  grunting  noise, 
somewhat  like  ka  ka  ka  ka  ,  »  .  He  is  then  requested  to 
show  the  other  one, 

"Tagise       pliyuwela" 
"Let's  see  the  other  one," 

and  answers  with  the  same  words,  ka  ka  ka  ka  .  .  ,  and 
a  similar  exhibition  of  his  second  testicle. 



I  should  like  to  add  that  the  comical  effect  o£  the 
grunting  noises,  kay  ka^  ka^  ka,  is  irresistible,  and  would 
be  as  much  envied  by  a  modern  (and  somewhat  risque) 
cabaret  artist,  as  Melanesian  or  West  African  carvings 
and  modellings  are  admired  by  modern  sculptors.  But 
it  is  very  difficult  to  render  linguistic  effects  and  a  sense 
of  fun  and  ribaldry  embodied  in  speech  through  the  me- 
dium of  another  tongue,  whereas  decorative  art,  sculp- 
ture, and  music  speak  their  own  universal  language. 

SEX    IN    folk-lore:    FACETIJE 

In  the  matter  of  stories,  we  will  begin  with  the  amus- 
ing folk-tales  (kukwanebu)  told  during  the  evenings  of 
the  rainy  season  for  the  entertainment  of  young  and  old. 
They  contain  accounts  of  avowedly  fantastic  and  unbe- 
lievable events  3  they  are  meant  to  stir  the  imagination,  to 
pass  the  time  pleasantly,  and,  above  all,  to  raise  a  laugh 
— at  times  a  very  ribald  laugh.^  A  few  of  them  are  en- 
tirely devoid  of  sexual  or  scatological  motives,  and  can 
only  be  touched  on  here.  There  is  the  tale  about  fire 
and  water,  in  which  fire  threatens  to  burn  water,  but 
water  touches  it  and  quenches  it.  There  is  one  in  which 
a  greedy  crab  wants  to  catch  the  fruit  collected  by  a  grass- 
hopper, but  the  fruit  falls  on  him  and  he  is  killed.  A 
pretty  story  is  told  of  a  beautiful  girl  who  is  wooed  by 
the  birds.     She  finds  fault  with  one  after  another,  and 

1  For  a  more  detailed  account  of  the  sociological  and  cultural  character 
of  these  stories  and  their  relation  to  other  types  of  folk-lore  cf.  Myth  in 
Primitive  Psychology, 



finally  accepts  the  smallest  and  most  modest  among  them. 
A  tale  is  told  of  the  legendary  ogre  Dokonikanj  his  gar- 
dens are  robbed  by  a  girl  who  is  imprisoned  by  him  and 
then  set  free  by  the  youngest  of  her  five  brothers,  and 
another  describes  a  contest  between  the  same  ogre  and  a 
hero.  The  latter  tale  is  told,  in  certain  districts,  not  as  a 
myth  but  as  a  funny  story.  A  purely  gustatory  account 
of  two  brothers,  who,  after  a  time  of  starvation,  over-ate 
to  bursting  point,  provokes  much  laughter  by  its  entirely 
innocent  jokes. 

Only  in  one  story  does  the  fun  turn  on  defecation:  a 
man  sticks  to  a  tree  after  he  has  relieved  himself,  and 
dies  as  his  relatives  try  to  pull  him  free.  In  the  tale  of 
the  louse  and  the  butterfly,  the  joke  consists  in  the  louse 
emitting  a  resounding  noise  from  the  rectum,  by  which 
explosion  he  is  thrown  off  the  butterfly's  back  and  drowned 
in  the  sea. 

I  will  now  relate  the  stories  with  a  sexual  motive,  giv- 
ing them  in  order  of  increasing  ribaldry. 

The  Snake  and  the  Two  Women. — Two  sisters  go  in 
search  of  eggs.  The  younger,  in  spite  of  a  warning,  takes 
away  the  eggs  of  the  snake.  The  mother  snake  chases 
the  thief  through  all  the  villages,  and  finds  her  at  last 
roasting  the  eggs  in  her  own  village  of  Kwabulo.  To 
punish  her,  the  snake  enters  her  body  through  the  vulva, 
coiling  up  inside  it  with  only  the  tail  and  the  nose  stick- 
ing out.    After  which,  as  the  natives  put  it: 

ivagi  klrlsala^  ikarisaki  matala 

it  makes      dream  response      it  induces  dream      eye  his 
man  of  Wawela. 



In  other  words,  this  happening  brought  about  a  dream 
response,  it  induced  a  vision  before  the  eyes  of  a  man  of 
Wawela.  This  man  comes  to  the  rescue  and,  by  magic, 
induces  the  snake  to  creep  out,  when  he  kills  it. 

The  Two  Brothers  and.  the  Chiefs  Wife. — ^A  younger 
brother  goes  to  a  distant  chief's  garden,  meets  the  chief's 
wife  there  and  they  fornicate  under  a  mango  tree.  He 
is  caught  by  the  outraged  husband,  who  brings  him  to  the 
village  and  places  him  on  a  high  platform,  to  await  his 
death.  However,  his  brother  rescues  him  by  magic,  and 
makes  all  the  men  of  that  village  disappear  by  the  same 
means  J  after  which  the  two  marry  the  women  and  settle 

The  Reef  Heron  and  Ilakavetega, — Ilakavetega  is  an 
old  woman  who  lives  with  her  granddaughters.  These 
go  to  the  seashore,  where  they  meet  a  reef  heron  who 
inquires  who  they  are.  "We  are  the  granddaughters  of 
Ilakavetega."  "Tell  her  then,"  answers  the  bird,  and 
intones : 

Kayfwada^u       wila^ 

Full  of  sores     cunnus  hers, 

kayfilipli  wila, 

full  of  small  sores     cunnus  hers, 

kayfwada^uyala     wilay 

sore  covered  cunnus  hers, 

kaykumikumi  wila: 

eaten  away  by  sores     cunnus  hers: 

i^usi  kalu   momonay 

It  flows  down     her     discharge, 



akanuwast       yaegu      boH, 

I  lap  it  up     myself     reef  heron. 

This  somewhat  gratuitous  insult  is  repeated  in  full  and 
with  the  same  sing-song  intonation  to  the  grandmother, 
who  accompanies  her  granddaughters  to  the  seashore  next 
day,  meets  the  reef  heron  and  hears  what  he  has  to  say 
for  herself  3  so  that  his  song  is  chanted  three  times  in  the 
course  of  the  narrative.  The  heron  unfortunately  gets 
entangled  among  the  coral  on  the  reef,  and  is  caught, 
killed,  and  eaten,  but  the  interests  of  poetic  justice  are 
served,  for  a  sorcerer  kills  Ilakavetega  and  her  grand- 
daughters to  avenge  the  death  of  this  amiable  and  witty 
bird.  Also  the  sorcerer  copulates  with  each  of  his  victims 
before  killing  them. 

The  Stingaree. — In  this  story  the  ribald  and  dramatic 
interest  are  nicely  balanced.  In  the  village  of  Okayboma 
there  lives  a  woman,  mother  of  five  sons,  who  is  endowed 
with  the  anatomical  anomaly  of  five  clitorises.^  In  the 
tidal  creek  of  that  village  dwells  a  giant  stingaree.  One 
day  when  the  boys  are  out  in  the  taro-garden,  the  sting- 
aree flops  up  the  mangrove  swamp,  gets  into  the  village, 
and  enters  the  house,  intoning  a  ribald  and  cruel  ditty: 

0  vavarty  vavari,     O  vavari,  vavari, 
Vari  toHy  to^L 

Afasisiy  afanehay 

1  cut  it  sore,     I  scarify  it, 

1  The  arithmetical  expert  will,  no  doubt,  discover  that  the  old  lady  had 
six  clitorises.     I  reproduce  the  native  story  as  it  was  given  me. 



magusisiy  magusike^iy 

I  want  to  cut  it,     I  want  to  cut  at  it, 

oritala    wila  inumwaya^iy 

one         cunnus  hers     slackens, 

bayadi     kola    kasesUy 

I  saw      her     clitoris, 

ba^ilituUy     bitotinay     biwokwo, 

I  cut  off,     it  snaps,     it  is  over. 

This  may  be  rendered,  the  onomatopoetic  words  being 
repeated  as  they  occur:  ^^O  vavariy  vavari,  vari  to^iy  toH — 
I  cut  it  and  make  a  scar  of  it,  I  cut  it  with  a  will,  I  like 
to  cut  at  it,  one  part  of  her  vulva  has  got  slack,  I  shall 
saw  off  one  of  her  clitorises,  I  saw  it  off  till  it  snaps  and 
is  gone." 

The  stingaree  then  proceeds  to  business,  copulates  with 
the  old  woman  and  cuts  off  one  of  her  multiple  append- 
ages. My  native  informants,  in  their  commentary,  af- 
firmed that  the  vaH  had  a  penis  j  but  it  seems  more  likely 
that  those  who  originally  contributed  to  the  making  of 
the  story  were  inspired  by  the  long,  saw-edged  dart  in 
the  middle  of  the  stingaree's  tail,  which,  were  it  used  as 
a  sexual  instrument,  would  certainly  have  the  baleful  re- 
sults described  in  the  story. 

The  sons  come  back  and  the  mother  complains  5  so  the 
eldest  one  offers  to  protect  her  next  day.  But  when  the 
stingaree  flops  along  into  the  village,  and  when  he  intones 
his  sadistic  ditty,  and  when  this  chant,  like  a  magical  spell, 
produces  a  portent  {kariyala)  in  the  form  of  lightning 
and  thunder,  the  son  runs  away  and  the  mother  is  de- 



prived  of  another  kasesa  (clitoris).  Nor  do  the  second, 
third,  and  fourth  brothers  behave  any  better.  Four  times 
does  the  stingaree  repeat  every  word  of  his  ditty  and 
every  detail  of  his  behaviour,  until  the  mother  is  left  with 
but  one  clitoris,  and  only  the  youngest  son  to  defend  it 
and  to  save  her  life.  For  the  story  assures  us  that  she 
could  not  survive  the  loss  of  all  the  five  kasesa. 

The  youngest  son  prepares  a  number  of  spears  made 
of  strong  hardwood,  places  them  all  along  the  road  \vhich 
the  cruel  fish  has  to  traverse  from  the  creek-head  to  the 
house,  and  then  waits  in  ambush. 

When  the  stingaree  appears,  he  sings  his  ditty  for  the 
last  time.  Now,  however,  he  sings:  "One  only,  a  solitary 
one  clitoris  remains.  I  have  come,  I  shall  finish  it  off  j  it 
will  be  over  with  her  clitorises,  she  will  die."  I  shall 
quote  the  end  of  the  narrative  in  free  translation. 

"The  stingaree  imagines  that  he  will  enter  the  house. 
The  son  sits  high  up,  on  the  raised  platform  in  front  of 
the  house.  He  grasps  the  spear,  he  pierces  the  stingaree. 
This  runs  awayj  the  man,  however,  comes  down.  He 
takes  the  spear  made  of  se*ulawola  wood,  which  he  had 
stuck  in  the  areca  palm.  He  throws  it,  and  the  impact 
causes  the  stingaree  to  stand  up.  The  next  spear  has 
pierced  it  also.  The  man  runs  to  the  nam  fruit  tree,  takes 
the  spear  made  of  tawaga  wood  and  throws  it.  He  runs 
to  the  mango  tree  and  takes  the  spear  of  hard  palm  wood, 
he  pierces  the  stingaree's  eye.  He  takes  a  strong  cudgel 
and  hammers  the  stingaree  till  it  dies."  The  story  ends 
with  the  return  of  the  elder  brothers  who  disbelieve  the 
young  man's  story,  until  they  are  convinced  by  the  sight 



of  the  stingaree's  corpse.  Then  the  fish  is  cut  up  and 
distributed  among  those  lagoon  villages  in  which  it  is  not, 
as  is  usual  in  the  Trobriands,  considered  an  abomination. 

The  Story  of  Digamina. — ^The  heroine's  name  etymo- 
logically  defines  her  anatomical  peculiarities  and  her  char- 
acter. The  root  diga  means  "to  fill  out,"  "to  pack  into"j 
wina  is  the  dialectic  and  archaic  form  of  wila,  cunnus. 
Digawina  is  endowed  with  very  large  and  comprehensive 
genitals.  It  is  her  custom  to  attend  the  big  distributions 
of  food  (sagali)  made  after  a  man  has  died,  and  to  steal 
more  than  her  share  j  packing  coco-nuts,  yams,  taro,  areca 
nuts,  betel  pods,  large  chunks  of  sugar  cane,  and  whole 
bunches  of  bananas  into  her  vagina.  Thus  things  mys- 
teriously disappear,  to  the  great  annoyance  of  all  others 
present,  and  particularly  of  those  who  arrange  the  feast. 
Her  practices  are  discovered  at  last.  The  master  of  the 
next  distribution  conceals  a  large  black  mangrove  crab 
{kaymagu)  among  the  food,  who  cuts  through  her  kasesa 
(clitoris)  and  thus  kills  her."  With  this  tragic  event  the 
story  ends. 

The  White  Cockatoo  and  the  Clitoris. — ^A  woman 
named  Karawata  gave  birth  to  a  white  cockatoo,  who  flew 
away  into  the  bush.  One  day  Karawata  went  to  the  gar- 
den, telling  her  kasesa  (clitoris)  to  look  after  the  kiim- 
kumurl  (earth  baking  oven).  The  kasesa  replies  confi- 
dently: Kekekeke.  But  the  white  cockatoo  has  seen 
everything  from  the  bush  5  he  swoops  down  and  strikes 
the  clitoris,  who  cries  out  plaintively:  Klkiklkl,  and  top- 
ples over,  while  the  cockatoo  eats  the  contents  of  the  oven. 
(It  is  necessary  to  imagine  the  big,  flat  mound-like  earth 



oven,  the  tiny  clitoris  standing  on  guard,  and  the  cruel 
white  cockatoo  watching  sardonically  for  its  chance.  The 
absurdity  of  the  situation  appeals  to  the  natives'  sense  of 
the  ludicrous.) 

Next  day,  Karawata  says  again  to  her  kasesa:  "Let  us 
catch  pig,  get  some  yams,  and  bake  it  all  in  the  earth." 
Again  she  takes  off  her  kasesa,  and  leaves  it  to  look  after 
the  oven,  and  the  kasesa  says  confidently  as  before: 
Kekekeke,  Again  the  white  cockatoo  descends  from  the 
branch,  strikes  the  kasesa,  who,  with  a  plaintive  kikikikiy 
topples  over  5  and  again  the  cockatoo  eats  the  contents  of 
the  oven.  Next  day  the  woman  says:  "I  shall  go  to  gar- 
den and  you  look  properly  after  the  food."  Kekekeke, 
answers  the  kasesa,  but  all  that  happened  on  the  two  pre- 
vious days  is  repeated,  and  Karawata  and  her  kasesa  die 
of  hunger. 

Mwoydakema. — This  hero  sees  two  women  who  are 
going  to  fetch  salt  water  from  the  beach.    He  hails  them: 

Wo!        tayyu  vivila!  Wo!  mitakuku, 

Wo!         two  women!         Wo!  nibbled  eyelashes, 

kada  mitakuku  yoku. 

our  (dual)  nibbled  eyelashes  thou. 

This,  in  free  translation,  means: 

"Hullo!  two  women  are  coming.  Hullo!  Sweethearts, 
those  with  whom  I  would  like  to  exchange  nibbling  of 

The  women  answer: 

O  gala     ikwani, 
O  not      it  grips. 


Which  amounts  more  or  less  to  our  colloquial  "Nothing 

Mwoydakema  then  exclaims: 

01  kifnali  kadi  kimaU  yokuy 

which  means:  "O  thou,  erotic  scratching";  in  other 
words:  "You  with  whom  I  would  like  to  exchange  erotic 

The  women,  however,  walk  on  and  leave  him  to  the 
polishing  of  his  stone  axe.  But  he  runs  ahead  of  them 
to  the  beach  and,  by  means  of  a  magic  ditty,  moves  the 
sea,  which  covers  him  and  leaves  him  buried  in  the  sand 
with  only  the  penis  sticking  out. 

The  women  come  upon  this  solitary  object  on  the 
beach,  and  begin  to  quarrel  about  to  whom  it  belongs. 
Finally,  one  after  the  other,  they  bestride  it,  pulling  each 
other  off,  and  each  wanting  to  enjoy  it  as  long  as  possible. 
This  to  the  natives  is  the  most  hilarious  part  of  the  nar- 
rative. After  they  have  gone,  Mwoydakema  shakes  off 
the  sand,  runs  back  to  his  axe,  and  hails  the  women  again 
(almost  in  the  same  words)  as  they  walk  back  from  the 
beach.  Next  day  the  same  events  are  repeated,  and  the 
women  have  three  turns  each  at  the  ^'stick"  (as  they  call 
it)  on  the  beach.  On  the  third  day  the  same  thing  hap- 
pens again,  but  after  the  women  have  enj  oyed  the  "stick," 
they  conceive  the  idea  of  digging  it  up  and  taking  it  home. 
They  gradually  discover  the  various  parts  of  Mwoyda- 
kema, till  he  jumps  up  and  runs  away.  And  when  they 
go  back  to  the  village  they  have  to  pass  him  once  more, 
and  he  teases  them  with  their  performances. 



Momovda. — Momovala  goes  with  his  daughter  to  the 
garden  and  sends  her  up  a  tree.  He  looks  up  and  sees 
her  genitals,  and  emits  the  long-drawn  katugogova.  This 
is  produced  by  giving  voice  on  a  high-pitched  note,  while 
the  sound  is  interrupted  by  the  rapid  beating  of  the  mouth 
with  the  hand.  It  is  used  to  express  intense  emotional 
excitement  of  a  pleasant  kind.  She  asks  him  why  he 
screamed.  "I  saw  a  green  lory,"  he  answers.  The  same 
sequence  is  repeated,  and  he  mentions  another  bird,  and 
so  on  several  times  over.  When  she  comes  down  from 
the  tree,  the  father  has  already  discarded  his  pubic  leaf 
and  is  in  a  state  of  erection.  She  is  very  confused,  and 
weeps.  He,  however,  seizes  her,  and  copulates  and  copu- 
lates. After  all  is  over,  she  sings  a  ditty  which  may  be 
rendered:  ^^O  Momovalay  Momovala!  Gut  of  my  gut, 
father  my  father.  Father  by  name,  he  seized  me,  he 
brought  me,  he  wronged  me."  The  mother  hears  her 
and  guesses  what  has  happened.  "Already  he  has  got 
hold  of  the  girl  and  copulated.     I  shall  go  and  see." 

The  mother  meets  them,  the  girl  complains  and  the 
father  denies.  The  girl  goes  to  the  seashore  with  all  her 
belongings,  and  sings  to  a  shark  to  come  and  eat  up,  first 
her  wooden  board  for  the  making  of  grass  skirts,  then 
her  basket,  then  one  arm,  then  the  other  arm,  and  so  on, 
interminably  singing  the  same  ditty  for  each  object. 
Finally  she  sings:  "Eat  me  up  altogether,"  and  the  shark 
does  so. 

At  home  Momovala  asks  the  mother  where  the  girl 
has  gone,  and  learns  of  her  tragic  death.  His  answer  is 
to  ask  the  mother  to  take  ofiF  her  grass  skirt  and  to  copu- 



late  with  him.  The  story  describes  his  horizontal  motions, 
which  are  so  strong  that  his  wife  complains:  Yakay,  yakajy 
an  expression  of  pain.  But  he  only  pushes  deeper  and 
deeper.  She  complains  again  to  no  purpose.  She  dies 
after  the  act. 

Next  day  people  ask  him  in  the  garden  what  has 
happened.  He  says  that  his  wife  has  been  speared. 
"Where?"  "In  her  vagina."  Momovala  then  cuts  off 
his  penis  and  dies. 

This  is  perhaps  the  cruellest  story  of  my  collection. 

SEX  IN  folk-lore:  legend  and  myth 

Passing  from  the  purely  narrative  and  entertaining 
fairy  tales  to  more  serious  forms  of  folk-lore,  we  find,  in 
Kwabulo,  one  of  the  lagoon  villages,  a  local  legend  of  a 
pronouncedly  sexual  character.  The  story  is  told  in  a 
manner  half-way  between  the  serious  and  the  jocular.  It 
is,  indeed,  a  significant  legend  to  the  inhabitants,  for  it  is 
embodied  in  a  famous  song,  it  is  associated  with  the  his- 
tory of  their  village  and  it  is  believed  to  be  true,  since 
certain  natural  features  in  the  locality  witness  to  its  au- 
thenticity. Also  it  contains  elements  of  the  tragic,  espe- 
cially in  the  self-castration  of  the  hero  and  in  his  lyric 
yearning  for  his  distant  home.  The  central  theme  is 
ribald,  however  5  and  when  telling  it  or  referring  to  it,  as 
they  often  do,  the  natives  are  by  no  means  solemn,  but 
delight  to  exaggerate  and  multiply  unseemly  similes 
about  the  crux  of  the  tale,  which  is  the  long  penis  of  the 



hero,  the  legendary  headman  of  Kwabulo.  I  shall  quote 
this  story,  keeping  as  closely  as  possible  to  the  native  style 
of  narrative. 

The  Legend  of  Inuvayla^u 

In  the  village  of  Kwabulo  there  lived  Inuvayla'u  the 
head  of  his  clan,  the  Lukuba  clan;  the  head  of  his  vil- 
lage. He  copulated  with  the  wives  of  his  younger 
brothers,  of  his  maternal  nephews. 

When  the  men  went  out  fishing,  he  would  stand  out- 
side a  house,  and  make  a  hole  in  the  thatch  3  he  then 
thrust  his  penis  through  the  thatch  and  fornicated.  His 
penis  was  very  long;  his  penis  was  like  a  long  snake. 
He  would  go  into  the  garden  when  the  women  made 
koumwala  (clearing  the  ground  from  debris  prepara- 
tory to  planting);  or  when  they  fwakova  (weeded  the 
ground).  He  would  stand  right  away  behind  the  fence, 
he  stood  in  the  uncut  bush  and  his  penis  wriggled  on  the 
ground  like  a  snake.  The  penis  crept  along  all  the  way. 
The  penis  would  approach  a  woman  from  behind  as  she 
was  bending  down  to  her  task.  It  would  strike  her  hard 
till  she  fell,  and  on  all  fours  she  would  be  fornicated  with 
as  the  penis  entered  the  vulva. 

Or  when  women  went  to  bathe  in  the  lagoon  the  penis 
would  go  under  the  water  like  an  eel  and  enter  the  vulva. 
Or  when  they  went  to  collect  shells,  as  women  do  on  the 
western  shore  (pi.  80),  wading  and  feeling  for  them  with 
the  toes  in  the  mud  of  the  lagoon,  Inuvayla'u  would  for- 
nicate with  tfiem.  When  the  women  went  to  the  water- 
hole,  he  would  smash  their  coco-nut  shell  bottles  and 



fornicate  with  them.  The  men  were  then  very  angry  for 
they  had  no  water  to  drink.  They  would  abuse  the 
women.  The  women  would  be  too  ashamed  to  speak, 
for  their  bottles  had  been  broken.  One  day  the  men 
ordered,  telling  their  wives: 

"Cook  fishj  cook  taytUy  make  pudding  of  taro,  so  that 
our  revered  old  man  eats  his  fill."  "No,"  answered  the 
women,  "we  shall  not  do  it  5  this  man  does  wrong  by  usj. 
when  you  go  to  fish,  and  we  remain  in  the  village,  when 
we  work  in  the  garden,  by  the  water-hole,  in  the  lagoon, 
he  does  violence  to  us." 

Then  the  men  watched  him.  They  said  they  were 
going  to  fish.  They  hid  in  the  weyka  (the  thick  scrub 
surrounding  the  village),  they  saw:  Inuvayla'u  stood  out- 
side a  hut,  he  made  a  hole  in  the  thatch  j  his  penis  sneaked 
on  the  ground,  it  crept  through  the  hole,  it  came  in:  he 
wronged  the  wife  of  his  younger  brother.  The  men  went 
to  the  garden  .  .  .  (here  the  various  conditions  under 
which  the  hero  plays  his  foul  pranks  on  the  women  are 
again,  enumerated,  in  almost  exactly  the  same  words  as 

When  his  younger  brothers,  his  maternal  nephews,  saw 
this,  they  grew  very  angry.  Next  morning  they  ducked 
him  5  they  ducked  him  in  the  head  pool  of  the  tidal  creek, 
which  comes  up  to  the  village  of  Kwabulo  (pi.  81). 

He  came  out  of  the  water.  He  returned  to  his  house, 
his  mind  was  full  of  shame  and  of  sorrow.  He  spoke  to 
his  mother  Lidoya:  "Bake  some  taytu  and  fish.  Bake  it 
in  the  ground.    Pack  all  our  belongings  and  the  food  in 



your  big  basket  j  lift  it  and  put  it  on  your  head  5  we  shall 
go,  we  shall  leave  this  place." 

When  all  was  ready,  he  came  out  of  his  house,  which 
stood  on  the  haku  (central  place  of  the  village).  He 
wailed  aloud,  facing  the  haku.  He  took  his  kema  (axe), 
he  cut  at  his  penis.  First  he  wailed  and  wailed  over  it, 
holding  it  in  his  hands.  Then  he  cut  off  the  point  of  his 
penis  3  it  came  off  on  the  haku  in  front  of  his  house  j  it 
was  turned  into  stone.  The  stone  is  still  there,  on  the 
haku  of  Kwabulo  in  front  of  the  headman's  house.  He 
cried  and  wailed  and  went  on.  He  stood  outside  the  outer 
ring  of  houses,  he  looked  back,  he  took  his  penis  and  wept 
over  it.  He  struck  again  with  his  axe.  The  second  bit 
fell  off  and  was  turned  into  stone.  It  can  be  seen  still 
outside  the  village  in  Kwabulo.  He  cried  and  wailed  and 
went  on.  Half-way  between  the  village  and  the  tidal 
pool  of  the  creek  he  stopped.  He  looked  back  towards 
the  houses.  He  took  his  penis  into  the  palms  of  his  hands, 
he  wept  over  it  and  cut  off  another  bit.  It  turned  into 
stone,  and  can  be  seen  there  not  far  from  Kwabulo.  He 
came  to  the  canoes  j  he  looked  back  towards  the  village, 
he  wept  over  his  genitals.  He  took  the  axe  and  cut  off 
the  remaining  stump  of  his  penis.  It  was  turned  into 
stone,  and  it  lies  now  near  where  the  Kwabulo  men  moor 
their  canoes.  He  entered  his  canoe  and  punted  along. 
Half-way  down  the  creek  he  wept  once  more.  He  gripped 
his  axe  and  cut  off  his  testicles.  Large  white  coral  boul- 
ders {yatu)  lie  in  the  creek.  They  are  the  token:  they 
show  where  Inuvayla'u  cut  off  his  testicles. 

Inuvayla'u  and  Lidoya,  his  mother,  went  to  Kavataria 



(to  the  north  of  Kwabulo,  a  village,  from  which  over- 
seas expeditions  are  made  south).  He  stole  a  large  waga 
(canoe),  a  mwasawa  (sea-going  canoe).  But  the  owner 
caught  him  and  chased  them  away.  They  went  to  Ba'u 
(a  village  further  north).  He  took  a  sea-going  canoe; 
he  told  his  mother  Lidoya:  "Put  in  your  basket,  we  shall 
sail."  They  sailed,  they  came  to  I'uwaygili  (a  village  on 
Kayleula).  He  told  his  mother  .  .  .  (here  the  same 
words  as  above  are  repeated;  then  they  sail  again,  arrive 
at  another  village  and  again  he  asks  her  to  put  in  her 
basket;  and  so  on,  through  a  monotonous  enumeration  of 
the  villages  along  the  lagoon  and  through  the  Amphlett 
Islands  down  to  the  koya^  the  high  mountains  on  the 
D'Entrecasteaux  Archipelago).  Inuvayla'u  arrived  in  the 
koya.  There  he  settled,  there  he  lived,  and  with  him  his 
mother,  who  helped  him  to  make  gardens  and  cooked  his 
food  for  him.  He  went  out  to  fish  with  a  flying  kite,  and 
with  the  deep  sea  net  which  has  to  be  sunk  far  under  the 
water.  His  mother  made  gardens  on  the  mountain  slope 
and  she  made  cooking  pots  for  him. 

One  day  he  went  high  up  the  mountain  slope.  The 
day  was  clear.  Far  away  among  the  budibudi  (the  small 
clouds  that  gather  round  the  horizon  in  the  monsoon  sea- 
son), he  saw  the  large  flat  island  of  Kiriwina,  he  saw  the 
wide  lagoon.  On  its  water  he  saw  a  canoe,  a  canoe  of 
Kwabulo,    his    native   village.^      His    inside    grew   soft 

1  For  the  strange  and  impressive  contrast  between  the  green  waters  and 
■white  chalk  of  the  Trobriands  and  the  brown  volcanic  rock,  high  moun- 
tains and  deep  blue  sea  of  the  koya,  compare  Argonauts  of  the  JVestern 
Pacific,  passim.  The  reader  will  also  find  there  accounts  of  the  emo- 
tional attitude  of  the  natives  towards  the  landscape  and  further  expres- 
sions of  it  in  folk-lore. 



(inokapisi  lofo^ula).  He  wanted  to  see  his  village,  he 
wanted  to  punt  among  the  mangroves  of  Kwabulo. 

They  sailed.  On  the  sea  they  met  a  boat  from  Kitava. 
He  tells  his  mother:  "Beg  them  for  sayaku  (aromatic 
black  paint)  j  beg  them  for  muUpwafwa  (ornaments  of 
shell)."  The  mother  offered  herself  to  the  Kitava  men. 
They  copulated  with  her  on  their  canoe  5  they  gave  her 
^om^  sayaku  and  a  few  shell  ornaments.  He  had  some 
red  paint  and  some  red  shell  ornament. 

On  the  landing-place  at  the  head  of  the  creek  he 
adorned  himself.  He  went  to  the  village.  In  his  fes- 
tival adornment  he  stood  on  the  haku  (central  place),  he 
sang  the  song  which  he  had  composed  in  the  koya  (south- 
ern mountains).  He  taught  the  song  to  the  villagers,  to 
his  younger  brothers,  and  maternal  nephews.  He  gave 
them  the  song  and  the  dance.  For  all  time  this  has  re- 
mained the  dance  and  song  of  the  people  of  Kwabulo. 
It  is  danced  with  the  kaydehu  (dancing  shield)  (pi.  82). 
The  men  of  Bwaytalu  and  of  Suviyagila  have  purchased 
it  and  they  dance  it  also.  Inuvayla'u  lived  in  his  village 
till  he  died.    This  is  the  end  of  the  story. 

I  obtained  a  few  variants  of  this  myth  by  hearing  it 
told  in  several  villages,  and  also  some  comments  which 
may  be  added.  The  act  of  expiatory  self-castration  ia 
sometimes  made  to  take  place  on  Inuvayla'u's  return 
home.  This,  however,  does  not  tally  with  the  sequence 
of  natural  relics.  All  the  stones  described  in  the  myth 
still  exist,  though  the  similarity  to  their  anatomical  pro- 
totypes has  worn  away  with  time,  while  their  size  must 
have  enormously  increased.    I  have  seen  the  relics  several 



times,  but  unfortunately  I  was  always  prevented  by 
weather  or  the  time  of  day  or  high  tide  from  taking  a 
photograph  of  the  stones.  Making  the  necessary  allow- 
ances for  imagination  and  latitude  in  exegesis,  there  can 
be  no  doubt  that  the  testicles  are  in  the  creek — large, 
round  boulders  just  awash  at  low  tide 3  while  the  glans 
femSy  a  pointed  helmet-shaped  piece  of  white  coral,  is  in 
the  central  place  of  the  village.  This  disposition  confirms 
the  version  given  in  the  text. 

The  etymology  of  the  hero's  name  indicates  his  fail- 
ing j  the  inu  is  unquestionably  the  feminine  particle  tna^ 
woman,  while  the  verb  vayla^u  means  actually  to  rob  or 
steal;  so  that  his  name  can  be  translated  "the  thief  of 
woman."  To  those  who  believe  in  the  existence  of  an 
old-time  gerontocracy  in  Melanesia  this  myth  will  be  of 
special  interest  j  for  in  it  we  have  the  old  (male)  "matri- 
arch" trespassing  on  the  rights  of  the  younger  men  of  his 
clan  and,  by  means  of  his  enormous  organ  (the  symbol 
of  his  greater  generative  power,  a  psycho-analyst  would 
say),  claiming  all  the  women  of  the  community.  Some 
parts  of  the  story  show  indisputable  signs  of  greater  an- 
tiquity, whereas  others  have  obviously  been  modernized. 
The  simple  crudity  of  the  first  part  and  its  association  with 
natural  features  has  all  the  interesting  sociological  signifi- 
cance of  the  genuine  myth,  gradually  degenerated  into 
mere  legend.  The  second  part,  on  the  contrary,  with  the 
song  which  will  be  quoted  presently,  is  set  in  modern 
and  realistic  conditions,  and  its  lyrical  narrative  character 
stamps  it  as  a  tale  of  more  recent  origin. 

It  is  characteristic  also  that,  in  the  first  part  of  the 



legend,  the  women  are  described  as  especially  open  to 
attack  during  their  specific  privileged  occupations,  when 
normally  a  taboo  protects  them  and  not  only  should  a 
man  never  make  love  to  them  but  he  should  not  even  ap- 
proach them  (see  chapter  ii,  male  and  female  provinces 
in  tribal  life).  It  must  be  remembered  that,  while 
engaged  in  communal  weeding,  women  are  entitled  in 
certain  districts  to  attack  any  man  who  approaches  them 
(ch.  ix,  sec.  8).  This  is  certainly  an  interesting  cor- 
relation and  might,  to  an  anthropologist  endowed  with 
some  imagination  and  a  faculty  for  hypothetical  con- 
struction, serve  as  a  proof  of  the  antiquity  of  the  myth 
and  furnish  a  theory  as  to  the  custom  of  yausa.  By 
outraging  the  women  when  engaged  in  such  occupations 
as  weeding  and  filling  the  water-bottles,  Inuvayla'u  adds 
insult  to  injury,  and  in  the  legend  we  see  the  women 
more  ashamed  for  the  manifest  insult  to  female  preroga- 
tives in  the  broken  water-bottles  than  for  their  abused 
chastity.  Superficially  this  breaking  of  the  bottles  might 
appear  merely  an  unpleasant  sadistic  trait  in  the  otherwise 
amiable  character  of  Inuvayla'u.  In  reality,  however,  all 
such  details  are  sociologically  very  significant. 

Another  slight  variant  of  the  legend  declares  that 
Inuvayla'u  was  not  allowed  to  return  to  his  village,  but 
was  chased  away  immediately  on  his  appearance.  I  prefer 
to  discard  this  tragic  version,  partly  because  Anglo-Saxons 
do  not  like  sad  endings  in  fiction,  partly  because  it  does 
not  harmonize  well  with  the  amiable  and  little  vindictive 
character  of  the  Trobrianders. 

The  song  which  is  ascribed  to  the  mutilated  hero  of 



Kwabulo  is  but  loosely  connected  with  the  story  of  the 
myth.  The  first  stanza  alludes  to  his  trespasses  and  their 
consequences,  and  the  expiatory  resolution  to  go  away. 
The  coral  outcrop  or  coral  ridge  mentioned  in  the  first 
stanza  and  the  marshy  ground  through  which  the  hero  is 
made  to  wander,  are  poetical  images  of  that  part  of  the 
legend  in  which  the  wanderings  of  the  hero  and  his 
mother  are  described. 

The  second  and  third  stanza  still  follow  the  myth. 
The  part  of  the  mother,  the  sorrow  of  the  son,  and  the 
first  stages  of  the  journey  are  common  to  both  song  and 
legend.  But  the  song,  neglecting  completely  the  coarser 
and  perhaps  more  archaic  elements  of  the  myth,  does  not 
mention  castration.  There  is  only  the  sorrow  for  the  vil- 
lage left  behind  and  the  house  abandoned. 

To  indulge  in  tentative  speculation  for  another  mo- 
ment: may  not  the  first  and  second  parts  of  the  myth  be 
different  stories  altogether — ^the  first  part,  a  primitive 
myth  with  several  interesting  sociological  hints  and  impli- 
cations 5  the  second  part  and  the  song,  a  tale  of  a  real  or 
imaginary  man,  who,  too  amorous  to  be  tolerated  in  the 
community,  was  banished  from  it,  and,  later,  offered  in 
expiation  his  song  and  his  repentance?  In  the  course  of 
time  the  two  were  amalgamated  in  the  legend,  but  not  in 
the  song. 

From  the  fourth  stanza  on,  the  song  turns  on  the  mo- 
tives of  decoration,  of  dancing,  of  personal  renown,  and 
of  self-glorification  5  of  women  admiring  the  singer's 
ornaments,  of  his  wandering  through  the  villages  and  his 
tecurring  nostalgia.     In  all  this  the  song  is  typical  of  its 



kind  in  the  Trobriands.  I  am  giving  only  the  first  six 
stanzas  because  I  was  unable  to  translate  the  remaining 
ones  as  fully  as  these. 

The  Song  of  Inuvayla'u 

One  day  they  ducked  Inuvayla'u. 

The  news  of  the  fornication  spread: 

He  was  dipped,  he  went  under,  he  came  out  of  the  water. 

He  turned  and  went  to  the  sea — 

Through  the  raybiuag  ^  and  dumia  he  went  to  the  sea. 


"Our  mother  Lidoya,  get  together  the  food, 
I  turn  my  eyes  to  Dugubakiki.^ 

My  tears  flow  at  the  thought  of  the  b'waulo  ^  of  my  village. 
My  tears  flow  at  the  thought  of  Kwabulo,  of  the  sweet  air  of  Kwabulo. 


"O  mother  Lidoya,  put  your  basket  on  your  head." 
She  goes  carefully,  she  stumbles  along  the  creek. 
She  has  left  Kwabulo — the  house  is  closed  up. 
Inuvayla'u  will  not  fornicate  any  more. 
Thy  house  is  locked  up — there  is  no  more  Inuvayla'u's  house. 


"It  Is  put  up — the  mast  at  the  mouth  of  the  creek. 
I  seek  for  my  song — I  am  taking  the  road — I — Inuvayla'u. 
My  road  is  Gulagola  which  leads  to  Tuma, 
And  afterwards  the  Digidagala  road  which  leads  through  Teyyava.* 

"Women  of  Kulumata,  dance  your  dance! 
Prepare  for  a  round  dance  with  the  tubuyavi^  on  your  faces! 
A  tileica'i  ^  for  you — go  then  to  my  village, 
Go  to  Oysayase — to  Oburaku!"  '^ 

'"■  Raybnvag — coral  outcrop,  coral  ridge ;  dumia — swamp  marshes. 
2  The  landing-place  of  Kwabulo  on  the  lagoon. 
^B'waulo — cloud  of  smoke,  surrounding  a  village. 
*  Both  roads  lead  to  the  north-west  district, 
s  Pattern  of  facial  decoration. 

6  Flattery-bond   (cf.  ch.  xi,  sec.  3). 

7  Both  southern  villages. 




"It  is  the  time  for  the  journey,  the  journey  to  Kiriwila.i 
The  children  tried  to  retain  me. 
I  shall  go  my  road  and  come  to  Yalumugwa.2 
My  dala  ^ — the  men ;  my  love — the  women. 
They  admire  my  paya.^ 

When  I  come  to  Okaykoda,  my  friends  will  greet  me. 
My  mind  is  sad. 

I  am  a  Luba  man,  my  fish  is  kaysipu. 
I  have  fallen  on  evil  days." 

The  Story  of  Kaytalugi 

Besides  legends  of  events  in  a  distant  epoch,  the  natives 
tell  tales  of  far-away  places.  At  almost  every  point  of 
the  compass,  if  we  were  to  believe  the  natives,  some  re- 
markable country  is  to  be  found  if  we  travel  far  enough. 
One  such  place  is  of  interest  to  us  here  because  of  the 
peculiarities  of  its  inhabitants. 

"Far  away,  beyond  the  open  sea — waluniy  as  the  natives 
say — if  you  were  to  sail  between  Sim-sim  and  Muyuwa 
(i.e.  in  a  northerly  direction)  you  would  come  to  a  large 
island.  It  is  called  Kaytalugi.  Its  size  is  that  of  Boyowa 
(the  name  of  the  largest  island  in  the  Trobriand  group). 
There  are  many  villages.  Only  women  live  in  them. 
They  are  all  beautiful.  They  go  about  naked.  They 
don't  shave  their  pubic  hair.  It  grows  so  long  that  it 
makes  something  like  a  doha  (grass  petticoat)  in  front  of 

"These  women  are  very  bad,  very  fierce.    This  is  be- 

1  North-western  district. 

2  Village  due  north  of  Kwabulo. 

3  Sub-clan. 

^  Turtle-shell  ear-rings. 



cause  of  their  insatiable  desire.  When  sailors  are  stranded 
on  the  beach,  the  women  see  the  canoes  from  afar.  They 
stand  on  the  beach  awaiting  them.  The  beach  is  dark  with 
their  bodies,  they  stand  so  thick.  The  men  arrive,  the 
women  run  towards  them.  They  throw  themselves  upon 
them  at  once.  The  pubic  leaf  is  torn  offj  the  women  do 
violence  to  the  men.  It  is  like  the  yausa  of  the  people  in 
Okayaulo.  The  yausa  has  its  season  during  the  fwakova. 
When  it  is  over,  it  is  over.  In  Kaytalugi  the  women  do 
it  all  the  time.  They  never  leave  the  men  alone.  There 
are  many  women  there.  When  one  has  finished,  another 
comes  along.  When  they  cannot  have  intercourse,  they 
use  the  man's  nose,  his  ears,  his  fingers,  his  toes — ^the  man 

"Boys  are  born  on  the  island.  A  boy  never  grows  up. 
A  small  one  is  misused  till  he  dies.  The  women  abuse 
him.  They  use  his  penis,  his  fingers,  his  toes,  his  hands. 
He  is  very  tired,  he  becomes  sick  and  dies." 

Such  is  the  account  given  by  the  natives  of  the  island 
with  the  significant  name.  Kayta  means  "to  copulate"  j 
lugi  is  a  sufiix  denoting  complete  satiation.  Thus  Kay- 
talugi means  "the  fill  of  copulation."  The  natives  be- 
lieve absolutely  in  the  reality  of  this  island  and  in  the 
truth  of  every  detail  of  their  account.  They  tell  circum- 
stantial stories  of  how  sailors,  driven  towards  the  island 
by  a  strong  wind,  will  land  on  desert  reefs  rather  than 
risk  making  Kaytalugi.  The  distance  to  the  island  is 
about  a  night  and  a  day's  journey  If  you  set  sail  in  the 
morning  and  go  ohomatu  (due  north),  you  will  arrive 
next  morning  at  the  island. 



•  There  are  also  stories,  believed  to  be  true,  about  men 
who  went  there  and  succeeded  in  escaping.  Thus,  long 
ago,  some  men  of  Kaulagu  were  stranded  on  the  island, 
driven  off  their  course,  according  to  some  versions,  dur- 
ing a  >^/^/^  expedition.  But  another  story  has  it  that  they 
went  there  on  purpose.  It  is  a  custom  in  the  Trobriands, 
when  work  comes  to  a  dead-lock,  for  one  of  the  men  to 
utter  a  challenge.  Some  extraordinary  exploit,  some  di- 
version or  festivity  is  proposed  by  him,  which  he  always 
has  to  lead,  usually  to  organize,  and  sometimes  to  finance. 
Those  who  are  challenged  have  to  follow  him.  On  one 
occasion  the  men  of  Kaulagu  were  engaged  in  planting 
yams,.  The  work  was  very  hard,  the  yam  supports  re- 
fused to  penetrate  the  stony  soil.  The  headman  cried 
out:  Uri  yakala  Kaytalugi!  "My  challenge  Kaytalugi! 
Let  us  go  and: see  the  women."  The  others  agreed. 
":The,y  filled  their  canoe  with  food,  firewood,  water  bot- 
tles, and  green  coco-nuts.  They  sailed.  One  night  they 
slept-  on  :the  seaj  the  second  night  they  slept  on  the  sea, 
the  third; morning  they  made  Kaytalugi.  (This  does  not 
agree  with  the  version  of  other  informants,  but  perhaps 
the  wind  was  not  propitious! )  The  women  assembled  on 
the  beach:  ^Wa!  men  are  coming  to  our  country!'  They 
pulled  the  canoe  to  pieces,  made  a  heap  of  the  debris  on 
the  beach  and.  sat  on  it.  They  copulated,  copulated,  copu- 
lated j  one  month,  month  after  month.  The  men  were 
distributed,  each  man  was  married  to  one  woman.  They 

"They, made  gardens  for  months  and  then  they  spoke 
to  their  wives.     'Are  there  many  fish  in  your  sea?'    The 



women  answered:  ^Very  plentiful.'  ^Let  us  repair  our 
canoe/  said  the  men.  'We  shall  get  some  fish,  we  shall 
eat  it  all  of  us.'  They  repaired  the  canoe,  they  put  leaves 
and  food  in  it,  they  put  in  water-bottles  and  they  went 
away.  They  sailed  three  days  and  came  back  to  Kaulagu, 
their  native  village.  Their  wives,  who  had  mourned  them 
and  then  remarried,  were  glad  to  see  them,  and  came 
back  to  them  again.  They  brought  home,  among  other 
things,  a  new  kind  of  banana  called  uslkela.  You  can  see 
usikela  growing  in  any  village  now,  and  eat  them.  They 
are  very  good"  (pi.  83).  And  this  is  another  proof  that 
the  story  is  true,  and  that  Kaytalugi  really  exists. 

When  I  asked  my  informants  why  it  was  that  the  mefi 
of  Kaulagu  not  only  survived  but  escaped,  I  was  told  that 
they  were  very  strong  and  that  no  man  allowed  sexual 
access  to  more  than  one  woman.  And  just  as  the  women 
were  beginning  to  get  too  much  for  them,  they  made 
their  escape.  It  is  an  interesting  example  of  how  every 
dogmatic  version  relaxes  when  elaborated  into  actual  ex- 
amples, even  though  these  are  imaginary. 

Another  story  is  told  about  a  man  of  Kaybola,  a  vil- 
lage on  the  northern  shore.  Fishing  for  shark,  he  sailed 
far  away.  He  came  to  Kaytalugi  and  was  married  by  one 
woman.  Feeling  tired  of  her  too  persistent  embraces,  he 
made  holes  in  all  the  local  canoes,  overhauled  his  own, 
and  then  suggested  to  his  wife  that  the  fish  were  very 
good  that  morning.  He  put  to  sea  and  set  sail.  The 
women  of  Kaytalugi  pushed  their  canoes  into  the  water  to 
pursue  him.  But  the  canoes  were  swamped  and  the  man 
returned  safely  to  Kaybola. 



When  I  expressed  my  doubt  as  to  the  reality  of  this 
island,  my  informants  suggested  that  it  was  all  very  well 
to  be  sceptical,  but  at  the  same  time  I  must  not  try  to  go 
there  on  pain  of  never  getting  away  again.  They  added 
that  all  gumanuma  (white  men)  would  like  to  go  to  Kay- 
talugi,  but  were  afraid  to  do  so.  "Look,  not  one  guma- 
numa has  been  to  Kaytalugi!" — another  irrefutable  proof 
of  its  existence. 

So  far  we  have  been  discussing  the  less  sacred  classes 
of  folk-lore,  and  in  these  we  have  found  the  sexual  mo- 
tive predominant.  The  less  the  religious  or  moral  sig- 
nificance of  a  story — the  less  "real"  it  is  to  the  native — 
the  more  frivolous  it  becomes  j  and  the  more  frivolous  it 
becomes,  the  more  frequently,  as  in  the  fairy  tales  {kuk- 
wanebu)^  does  it  hinge  on  sex.  But  among  legends,  there 
is  only  one  story  which  has  sex  as  its  principal  motive, 
that  of  Inuvayla'u,  and  only  one  geographical  account, 
that  of  Kaytalugi.  The  real  myths  (Jili^u)  hardly  ever 
have  a  sex  motive  j  the  myths  of  the  origins  of  humanity 
and  of  the  social  order,  for  instance,  are  completely  free 
of  it.  Again,  in  the  cycle  of  stories  about  the  hero  Tudava, 
the  only  sexual  reference  occurs  in  the  incident  of  the 
virgin  birth,  the  mechanism  of  which  is  discreetly  and 
chastely  described:  the  hero's  mother  sleeps  in  a  grotto, 
and  the  dripping  water  (Jitukzva)  from  the  roof  pierces 
her  hymen,  penetrates  the  vagina  and  thus  "opens  her" 
(ikaripwala)  y  making  it  possible  for  her  to  conceive  (see 
ch.  vii). 

No  sexual  elements  are  to  be  found  in  the  several 
myths  referring  to  the  circular  trade  kula;  or  in  those  of 



the  origin  of  fishing,  of  canoes,  and  of  diving  for  the 
spondylus  shell.  Nor  are  any  to  be  found  in  the  myth  of 
old  age,  death,  and  the  annual  visit  of  the  spirits. 

Fire,  according  to  legend,  was  brought  forth  by  the 
same  woman  who  produced  the  sun  and  the  moon.  The 
sun  and  moon  wander  away  into  the  sky,  but  the  mother 
keeps  the  fire,  concealing  it  in  her  vagina.  Whenever  she 
needs  it  for  cooking,  she  takes  it  out  of  its  hiding  place. 
But  one  day  her  younger  brother  discovers  where  she 
keeps  it,  steals  it,  and  gives  it  to  other  people.  This  is 
the  only  genuine  myth  with  a  distinctly  sexual  element. 

Sex  does  not  play  a  very  important  part  in  beliefs  about 
supernatural  beings.  The  only  exception  to  this  rule  is 
the  idea  that  some  witches  {yoyova)  have  intercourse  with 
tauva^u  (malignant,  anthropomorphic  beings  who  come 
from  the  southern  islands  and  cause  epidemics).  Thus 
Ipwaygana,  a  woman  of  the  Malasi  clan  who  was  mar- 
ried, against  all  the  rules  of  exogamy,  to  Modulabu,  the 
Malasi  headman  of  Obweria,  has  a  familiar  tauva^Uy  who 
visits  her  sexually  and  teaches  her  the  arts  of  evil  magic 
(she  is  to  be  seen  on  plates  77  and  78).  Bomwaytani  of 
Kaybola,  the  headman's  wife  and  a  notorious  yoyova^  is 
also  known  to  have  a  liaison  with  such  a  malignant,  super- 
human instructor. 

But  in  the  Trobriands  such  cases  are  sporadic.  The 
belief  in  a  witches'  Sabbath  which  seems  to  obtain  among 
the  Southern  Massim,  is  not  found  in  the  northern  dis- 
trict. Informants  from  Normanby  Island  and  from  the 
islands  of  the  east  end  told  me  that  witches  forgather  at 
night  and  meet  Ta'ukuripokapoka,  a  mythological  per- 



sonality  and  apparently  an  expert  in  evil  craft.  Dances 
and  orgies  take  place,  in  which  the  witches  copulate  with 
male  beings  and  even  with  Ta'ukuripokapoka  himself. 


In  the  Trobriands,  as  in  almost  every  culture,  one  of 
the  most  important  dogmatic  systems  or  mythologies  is 
that  referring  to  a  future  life. 

The  Trobrianders  place  the  spirit  world  on  a  small 
island  called  Tuma  lying  to  the  north-west.  There,  un- 
seen by  mortal  eyes,  undisturbed  by  the  troubles  of  the 
world,  the  spirits  lead  an  existence  very  much  like  that  of 
ordinary  Trobriand  life,  only  much  more  pleasant.^  Let 
me  quote  a  good  description  by  one  of  my  best  informants, 
Tomwaya  Lakwabulo  (pi.  37),  a  famous  seer,  a  spiritistic 
medium  of  no  mean  talent  and  imagination  (also  of  no 
small  cunning)  and  a  frequent  guest  of  the  spirit  world: 

"In  Tuma  we  are  all  like  chiefs  5  we  are  beautiful  j  we 
have  rich  gardens  and  no  work  to  do — the  women  do  it 
all  5  we  have  heaps  of  ornaments  and  we  have  many 
wives,  all  of  them  lovely."  This  summarizes  the  ideas 
and  aspirations  of  the  natives  with  regard  to  the  spirit 
world — at  least,  as  long  as  it  remains  a  matter  of  remote 
speculation,  for  their  attitude  towards  death  and  the  de- 
sirability of  an  immediate  move  to  Tuma  remains  unaf- 
fected by  what  they  think  of  and  hope  for  in  the  next 

iCf.  "Baloma:  The  Spirits  of  the  Dead  in  the  Trobriand  Islands,"  in 
Journ.  of  the  R.  Anthrop.  Institute,  1916,  for  a  preliminary  account,  based 
on  ray  first  year's  investigations  in  the  Archipelago. 



world.  On  this  point  they  are  exactly  like  ourselves. 
Many  a  good  Christian  will  grow  enthusiastic  about  the 
joys  and  consolations  of  Heaven  without  showing,  how- 
ever, any  alacrity  to  repair  thither. 

But  in  distant  perspective  and  as  a  picture  for  dogmatic 
fantasy,  the  home  of  the  spirits  in  Tuma  remains  a  para- 
dise, and  above  all  an  erotic  paradise.  When  a  native 
talks  about  it,  when  he  grows  eloquent  and  relates  the 
traditional  stories,  filled  out  with  scraps  of  information 
gathered  from  recent  spiritistic  mediums,  and  elaborates 
his  personal  hopes  and  anticipations — all  other  aspects 
soon  fade  into  the  background  and  sex  comes  to  the  forej 
sex  primarily,  but  set  about  with  its  appropriate  trappings 
of  personal  vanity,  display,  luxury,  good  food,  and  beau- 
tiful surroundings. 

In  their  anticipations,  Tuma  is  thronged  with  beautiful 
women,  all  ready  to  work  hard  by  day  and  dance  by  night. 
The  spirits  enj  oy  a  perpetual  scented  bacchanal  of  dancing 
and  chanting  on  spacious  village-places  or  on  beaches  of 
soft  sand,  amid  a  profusion  of  betel  and  of  green  coco- 
nut drinks,  of  aromatic  leaves  and  magically  potent  deco- 
rations, of  wealth  and  the  insignia  of  honour.  In  Tuma 
each  one  becomes  endowed  with  such  beauty,  dignity,  and 
skill  that  he  is  the  unique,  the  admired,  the  pampered 
protagonist  of  a  never-ending  feast.  By  some  extraor- 
dinary sociological  mechanism,  all  commoners  become 
chiefs,  while  no  chief  believes  that  his  relative  rank  is  to 
be  diminished  or  dimmed  by  the  spirits  of  his  inferiors. 

Let  us  follow  the  adventures  of  a  spirit  as  he  enters 
his  future  home. 



After  certain  preliminary  formalities,  the  spirit  comes 
face  to  face  with  Topileta,  the  guardian  of  the  road  to 
Tuma.  This  person,  who  belongs  to  the  Lukuba  clan, 
looks  very  much  like  a  man  and  is  essentially  human  in 
his  appetites,  tastes,  and  vanities.  But  he  is  of  the  con- 
sistency of  a  spirit,  and  his  appearance  is  distinguished  by 
very  large  ears  which  flop  like  the  wings  of  a  flying  fox. 
He  lives  with  a  daughter  or  several  daughters. 

The  spirit  is  well  advised  to  address  Topileta  in  a 
friendly  fashion  and  to  ask  the  road,  at  the  same  time 
presenting  the  valuables  which  were  given  to  him  for  the 
journey  to  Tuma  by  his  surviving  relatives.  These  valu- 
ables, be  it  noted,  are  not  buried  with  the  body  nor  de- 
stroyed, only  pressed  and  rubbed  against  it  before  death 
and  afterwards  placed  on  the  corpse  for  a  time  (see  ch. 
vi,  sec.  3).  Their  spiritual  counterparts  are  supposed  to 
be  taken  by  the  spirit  of  the  deceased  on  his  journey  to 
the  next  world,  and  then,  according  to  one  version,  offered 
to  Topileta,  or,  according  to  another,  used  to  decorate  the 
spirit's  own  person  on  his  entrance  into  Tuma.  No  doubt 
an  intelligent  spirit  finds  a  way  to  do  justice  to  both  re- 

Topileta,  however,  is  not  satisfied  with  mere  gifts.  His 
lust  is  equal  to  his  greed,  so  that  if  the  spirit  is  a  female 
he  copulates  with  her,  if  a  male  he  hands  him  over  to 
his  daughter  for  the  same  purpose.  This  accomplished, 
Topileta  puts  the  stranger  on  his  way,  and  the  spirit  pro- 

The  spirits  know  that  a  newcomer  is  arriving  and 
throng  to  greet  him.     Then  a  rite  is  performed  which 



deeply  affects  his  mind.  The  spirit  arrives  filled  with  sor- 
row. He  yearns  for  those  left  behind,  for  his  widow, 
his  sweetheart,  his  children.  He  longs  to  be  surrounded 
with  his  family,  and  to  return  to  the  bosom  of  his  wife 
or  of  his  earthly  love.  But  in  Tuma  there  is  an  aromatic 
herb  called  bubwayayta.  This  is  made  into  a  vana  (bun- 
dle) and  magic  is  spoken  over  it  by  a  fair  spirit-woman, 
immediately  before  a  male  spirit  appears  upon  the  island. 
As  he  approaches  the  group  who  stand  awaiting  him,  the 
most  passionate,  and,  no  doubt,  the  loveliest  of  the  spirit 
women  runs  towards  him  and  waves  the  scented  herb  be- 
fore his  face.  The  scent  enters  his  nostrils,  carrying  with 
it  the  magic  of  bubwayayta.  As  with  the  first  sip  of  the 
water  of  Lethe,  so  this  scent  makes  him  forget  all  that 
he  has  left  on  earth,  and  from  that  moment  he  thinks  no 
more  of  his  wife,  yearns  no  more  for  his  children,  desires 
no  more  the  embraces  of  earthly  loves.  His  only  wish 
now  is  to  remain  in  Tuma  and  to  embrace  the  beautiful 
though  unsubstantial  forms  of  spirit  women. 

His  passions  will  not  remain  long  unsatisfied.  Spirit 
women,  unfleshly  though  they  appear  to  us  mortals,  have 
fire  and  passion  to  a  degree  unknown  on  earth.  They 
crowd  round  the  man,  they  caress  him,  they  pull  him  by 
force,  they  use  violence  on  him.  Erotically  inspired  by 
the  bubwayayta  spell,  he  yields  and  a  scene  is  enacted, 
unseemly  to  those  unused  to  the  ways  of  a  spirit,  but  ap- 
parently quite  the  thing  in  Paradise.  The  man  submits 
to  these  advances  and  copulates  with  the  hostess-spirit  in 
the  open,  while  the  others  look  on,  or,  stimulated  by  the 
sight,  do  likewise.     Such  promiscuous  sexual  orgies,  in 



which  male  and  female  mix  indiscriminately,  congregate, 
change  partners  and  reunite  again,  are  frequent  among 
the  spirits.  So  at  least  I  was  told  by  several  eyewitnesses, 
not  from  the  world  of  spirits,  but  from  that  of  mediums. 

For  I  luckily  had  the  privilege  of  discussing  these  mat- 
ters with  a  number  of  seers  who  had  actually  been  in 
Tuma,  dwelled  among  the  spirits,  and  returned  to  tell  the 
tale.  Most  prominent  among  my  informants  was  Tom- 
waya  Lakwabulo,  whose  name  had  been  mentioned  to  me 
and  his  exploits  recorded  with  a  mixture  of  respect  and 
cynicism,  before  I  actually  met  and  worked  with  him.^ 
I  also  had  opportunities  of  speaking  with  Bwaylagesi,  a 
woman  medium,  with  Moniga'u,  and  with  one  or  two 
other  lesser  mediums.  The  details  of  life  in  Tuma  given 
so  far  are  common  property  and  form  part  of  general 
folk-lore  j  and  my  eyewitnesses  only  confirmed  these, 
though  they  were  able  to  add  colour  and  concrete  vivid- 
ness to  them.  I  shall  now;  proceed  to  more  esoteric  in- 

Tomwaya  Lakwabulo  was  married  on  earth  to  a  woman 
called  Beyawa,  who  died  about  a  year  before  I  came  to 
Oburaku.  He  has  seen  her  since  in  Tuma,  and,  remark- 
ably enough,  she  has  remained  faithful  to  him,  regards 
herself  as  his  wife  over  there,  and  will  have  nothing  to 
do  with  anyone  else.    This  is  Tomwaya  Lakwabulo's  own 

1  Cf.  "Baloma:  The  Spirits  of  the  Dead"  {Journ.  R.  Anthr.  Inst.,  1916), 
published  before  my  third  expedition.  During  this  expedition  I  lived  for 
several  months  in  Oburaku,  saw  Tomwaya  Lakwabulo  in  trances  and  in 
his  sober  moods,  and  used  him  as  a  medium.  I  found  that  in  spite  of  the 
unmasking  of  Tomwaya  Lakwabulo,  described  in  the  article  noted,  he 
enjoyed  an  undiminished  prestige  in  his  own  community  and  in  the  Tro- 
briands  universally.  In  this  respect  also,  the  Trobrianders  do  not  greatly 
differ  from  ourselves. 



version.  He  agrees,  however,  that  in  this  respect  the  late 
Beyawa,  or  rather  her  spirit,  is  an  unprecedented  excep- 
tion to  all  other  spirit  women.  For  they  all,  married  and 
unmarried  alike,  are  sexually  accessible  to  anybody — to 
him,  Tomwaya  Lakwabulo,  in  any  case.  They  all,  with 
the  exception  of  Beyawa,  make  katuyausl  and  receive 
ulatile  visits. 

It  was  long  ago,  when  Beyawa  was  young  and  attrac- 
tive, that  Tomwaya  Lakwabulo  paid  his  first  visit  to 
Tuma.  He  then  made  the  acquaintance  of  one  of  the 
most  beautiful  spirit  girls,  Namyobe'i,  a  daughter  of 
Guyona  Vabusi,  headman  of  Vabusi,  a  large  village  on 
the  shore  of  Tuma.  She  fell  in  love  with  him  5  and,  as 
she  was  so  very  beautiful  and  moreover  performed  bub- 
wayayta  magic  upon  him,  he  succumbed  to  her  charms 
and  married  her.  Thus  he  became,  so  to  speak,  a  biga- 
mist, or  at  least  a  spiritual  bigamist,  having  his  wife  on 
earth  in  Oburaku  and  his  spiritual  wife  in  Vabusi.  Since 
that  time,  he  has  regularly  frequented  the  land  of  spirits 
during  trances,  when  he  neither  eats  nor  drinks  nor  moves 
for  weeks.  (At  least,  in  theory:  I  visited  Tomwaya  Lak- 
wabulo in  one  of  these  trances,  and  succeeded  in  insinu- 
ating a  tin  of  bully  beef  and  some  lemon  squash  into  him, 
and  moved  him  to  accept  two  sticks  of  tobacco.)  These 
professional  visits  to  Tuma,  besides  being  agreeable  on 
account  of  Namyobe'i,  are  profitable,  for  he  carries  rich 
presents  to  the  spirits,  entrusted  to  him  by  their  surviving 
relatives.  There  is  no  reason  to  doubt  that  the  spiritual 
part  of  the  presents  reaches  the  ghosts  in  Tuma. 

It  is  to  the  credit  both  of  Tomwaya  Lakwabulo  and 



of  the  late  Beyawa  that  she  knew  and  approved  of  his 
spiritual  partnership,  and  even  allowed  her  own  daughter 
to  be  called  Namyobe'i  after  the  spirit  wife.  Now  both 
wives  have  met  in  Tuma,  but  they  inhabit  different  vil- 
lages. This  is  in  accordance  with  a  general  rule,  for  each 
earthly  community  has  its  spirit  colony  to  which  the  de- 
ceased move  after  death.  There  are  also  a  few  villages 
sui  generis,  not  recruited  from  this  world  and  showing^ 
strange  characteristics.  One  of  them  is  inhabited  by 
women  who  live  in  houses  on  piles  as  tall  as  coco-nut 
palms.  No  man  is  ever  allowed  to  enter  the  village  and 
no  man  has  ever  had  intercourse  with  the  women.  They 
bring  forth  children,  but  exclusively  of  the  female  sex.. 
Such  female  puritans  are,  however,  happily  the  exception 
in  Tuma,  where  love,  enjoyment,  and  lazy  pleasure  en- 
fold the  happy  spirits. 

To  enjoy  life  and  love  it  is  necessary  to  be  young. 
Even  in  Tuma,  old  age — ^that  is,  wrinkles,  grey  hair,  and 
feebleness — creeps  upon  the  spirits.  But  in  Tuma  there 
exists  a  remedy,  once  accessible  to  all  mankind,  but  now 
lost  to  this  world. 

For  old  age  to  the  Trobrianders  is  not  a  natural  state — 
it  is  an  accident,  a  misadventure.  Long  ago,  shortly  after 
mankind  had  come  upon  earth  from  underground,  human 
beings  could  rejuvenate  at  will  by  casting  off  the  old  with- 
ered skinj  just  as  crabs,  snakes,  and  lizards,  and  those 
creatures  that  creep  and  burrow  underground,  will  every 
now  and  then  throw  off  the  old  covering  and  start  life 
with  a  new  and  perfect  one.  Humanity  unfortunately 
lost  this  art — ^through  the  folly  of  an  ancestress,  according 



to  legend — ^but  in  Tuma  the  happy  spirits  have  retained 
it.^  When  they  find  themselves  old,  they  slough  off  the 
loose,  wrinkled  skin,  and  emerge  with  a  smooth  body, 
dark  locks,  sound  teeth,  and  full  of  vigour.  Thus  life 
with  them  is  an  eternal  recapitulation  of  youth  with  its 
accompaniment  of  love  and  pleasure. 

So  their  time  passes  in  dancing,  singing,  and  all  that 
goes  with  these — festive  dressing,  decoration,  scents  of 
aromatic  oils  and  herbs.  Every  evening,  in  the  cool  sea- 
son, when  the  persistent  trade  wind  abates,  or  when  the 
fresh  sea  breezes  quicken  the  air  during  the  sultry  time 
of  the  monsoon,  the  spirits  put  on  festive  attire  and  re- 
pair to  the  baku  of  their  village  to  dance,  just  as  is  done 
in  the  Trobriands.  At  times,  departing  from  earthly 
usage,  they  will  go  to  the  beach  and  dance  on  firm  cool 
sand  beaten  by  breakers. 

Many  songs  are  composed  by  the  spirits  and  some  of 
these  reach  the  earth,  brought  thither  by  mediums.  In 
common  with  most  such  productions,  these  songs  are  a 
glorification  of  the  composer.  "The  glory  of  their  hutia 
(flower  wreath)  they  singj  of  their  dancing 5  of  their 
■nabwoda^u  (ornamented  basket)  j  of  their  facial  paintings 
and  decoration."  It  was  quite  clear  that  skill  in  garden- 
ing or  carving,  outstanding  achievements  in  war  or  in  the 
Mulay  were  no  longer  objects  of  ambition  to  the  spirits. 
Instead  we  find  dancing  and  personal  beauty  celebrated, 
and  these  mainly  as  a  setting  and  a  preliminary  to  sex 

^  For  a  fuller  account  see  "Myths  of  Death  and  the  Recurrent  Cycle 
of  Life,"  on  pp.  80-106  of  Myth  in  Primitive  Psychalogy. 



I  will  quote  one  example  of  such  a  song,  entitled 
Usiyawenuj  it  was  composed  by  a  ghost  in  Tuma,  and 
brought  to  earth  by  Mitakayyo  of  Oburaku,  a  medium 
who  was  already  permanently  settled  in  Tuma  when  I 
came  to  the  Trobriands. 

I  shall  sing  the  song  of  idle  enjoyment — 

My  mind  boils  over  upon  my  lips — 

They  range  themselves  round  a  circle  on  the  baku, 

I  shall  join  them  on  the  baku — 

The  conch-shell  is  blown — listen! 

Look!     The  flaming  butia  "wreath, 

The  butia  of  my  sweetheart. 


My  father  weeps,  they  start  the  mortuary  dance  for  me. 
Come!    Let  us  chew  betel-nut,  let  us  throw  the  bubiuayayta. 
Let  us  break  the  pod  of  the  betel-pepper, 
The  betel-nut — my  mind  becomes  numb! 


My  friend,  standing  on  the  beach — he  is  full  of  passion. 

He  boils  over,  my  friend  on  the  northern  shore  of  Tuma. 

The  red-haired  man  dreams  of  me, 

He  has  an  ornamental  basket. 

His  face  shines  like  the  moon  in  its  fullness. 


The  white  clouds  gather  low  over  the  skyline, 
I  cry  silently. 

On  a  hill  in  Tuma,  I  rock  my  baby  to  sleep, 

I  shall  go  and  look  after  my  sister, 

I  shall  put  a  bagido'u  round  my  head, 

I  shall  paint  my  mouth  with  crushed  betel-nut, 

I  shall  adorn  myself  with  armshells  on  the  western  shore, 

«  «  «  «  Jir 



A  Trobriand  song  is  always  full  of  omissions  and  of 
allusions  to  events  well  known  to  the  listeners,  and  can 
never  be  quite  intelligible  to  a  stranger.  Even  my  native 
informants,  however,  were  not  able  fully  to  interpret  this 

After  two  introductory  lines,  the  first  stanza  describes 
the  preparations  for  a  dance  in  Tuma.  In  the  second 
stanza  we  have  the  sudden  abandonment  of  earthly  in- 
terests, brought  about  by  bubwayayta.  In  the  third,  a 
woman  sings  of  a  man  beloved  by  her.  She  is  obviously 
still  on  earth,  and  her  husband  or  sweetheart — ^the  com- 
poser of  the  song  apparently — has  passed  into  Tuma.  She 
looks  to  the  north-west  where  monsoon  clouds  gather,  and 
weeps  for  him  (stanza  iv).  In  the  last  of  the  translated 
stanzas  she  herself  has  entered  Tuma  and  describes  her 
attire  which,  as  with  all  spirits,  seems  to  have  become  her 
main  concern.  It  is  to  her  credit  that  she  has  not  forgotten 
her  baby,  though  how  such  a  sentimental  reminiscence  fits 
into  the  frivolous  atmosphere  of  Tuma  none  of  my  in- 
terpreters could  explain. 



The  sexual  freedom  which  we  find  among  the  Trobriand 
Islanders  must  not  be  mis-called  "immorality,"  and  placed 
in  a  non-existent  category.  "Immorality,"  in  the  sense 
of  an  absence  of  all  restraints,  rules,  and  values,  cannot 
exist  in  any  culture,  however  debased  or  perverted  it  may 
be.  "Immorality,"  on  the  other  hand,  in  the  sense  of 
morals  different  from  those  which  we  pretend  to  practise, 
must  be  anticipated  in  every  society  other  than  our  own 
or  those  which  are  under  the  influence  of  Christian  and 
Western  culture. 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  the  Trobrianders  have  as  many 
rules  of  decency  and  decorum  as  they  have  liberties  and 
indulgences.  Among  all  the  customs  of  sexual  liberty 
so  far  described,  there  is  not  one  warrant  of  licence  which 
does  not  imply  definite  limits  j  not  one  concession  to  the 
sexual  impulse  but  imposes  new  restrictions  j  not  one  re- 
laxation of  the  usual  taboos  but  exacts  compensation  in  one 
way  or  another. 

All  Trobriand  institutions  have  their  negative  as  well 
as  their  positive  side:  they  bestow  privileges  but  they  also 
imply  renunciations.  Thus,  marriage  presents  many 
legal,  economic,  and  personal  advantages,  but  it  also 
means  the  exclusion  of  extra-matrimonial  intercourse, 
especially  for  the  wife,  and  a  number  of  restrictions  in 
manners  and  conduct.    The  institution  of  the  hukumatula 



(bachelors'  house)  has  its  taboos  as  well  as  its  privileges. 
Even  such  customs  as  yausa,  katuyausiy  and  ulatiley  all  of 
which  are  especially  constituted  for  licence,  are  hedged 
round  with  conditions  and  limitations. 

The  reader  who,  after  the  perusal  of  the  previous  chap- 
ters, still  retains  a  sense  of  moral  superiority  over  the 
Trobrianders,  will  have  to  be  told  in  the  following  pages 
directly  and  explicitly  that  the  Trobriander  has  just  as 
clear-cut  a  feeling  for  modesty  in  dress  and  in  behaviour 
as  we  have,  and  that  he  would  be  as  shocked  by  us  on 
certain  occasions,  as  we  are  shocked  by  him  on  others. 
In  the  matter  of  excretory  functions,  for  instance,  he 
shows  far  more  delicacy  than  most  Europeans  of  the  lower 
classes,  and  certain  "sanitary"  arrangements  current  in  the 
south  of  France  and  other  Mediterranean  countries  would 
horrify  and  disgust  him.  His  tolerance  is  certainly  great 
as  regards  the  natural  forms  of  sexual  intercourse,  but  to 
compensate  for  this,  he  is  free  from  many  aberrations  of 
the  sexual  impulse.  "Unnatural  vice,"  on  which  we  need 
to  impose  heavy  penalties,  has  no  place  in  his  life,  except 
as  a  subject  for  contemptuous  amusement.  He  is  shocked 
when  he  sees  or  hears  about  Europeans  dancing  pressed 
against  each  other 5  or  when  he  finds  a  white  man  jesting 
and  unconstrained  in  his  sister's  company,  or  showing 
tenderness  to  his  wife  in  public.  In  fact,  his  attitude  to 
his  moral  rules  is  very  much  like  our  own,  whether  we 
call  ourselves  Christians  or  Agnostics:  he  believes  in  them 
firmly,  regards  their  infringement  with  disapproval,  and 
even  keeps  to  them,  not  perfectly  and  not  without  effort, 
but  with  a  reasonable  amount  of  earnestness  and  goodwill. 



Many  things  which  we  regard  as  natural,  proper,  and 
moral  are  anathema  to  the  Trobriander.  And  the  onus 
frobandi  would  rest  on  anyone  who  maintained  that  the 
Trobriander's  morality  is  wrong  and  ours  is  right,  that 
his  limitations  and  barriers  are  inadequate  and  artificial 
while  ours  are  sufficient  and  real.  In  some  respects  his 
moral  regulations  are  biologically  sounder  than  our  own, 
in  some  more  refined  and  subtle,  in  some  a  more  efficient 
safeguard  for  marriage  and  the  family.  In  other  matters 
again  we  might  reasonably  claim  to  be  his  moral  superiors. 
The  best  way  to  approach  sexual  morality  in  an  entirely 
different  culture  is  to  remember  that  the  sexual  impulse 
is  never  entirely  free,  neither  can  it  ever  be  completely 
enslaved  by  social  imperatives.  The  limits  of  freedom 
vary  J  but  there  is  always  a  sphere  within  which  it  is  deter- 
mined by  biological  and  psychological  motives  only  and 
also  a  sphere  in  which  the  control  of  custom  and  conven- 
tion is  paramount. 

It  was  necessary  to  clear  the  ground  before  proceeding 
to  the  subject  of  this  chapter,  for  there  is  no  greater 
source  of  error  in  sociology  than  a  false  perspective  in 
sexual  morality  5  and  it  is  an  error  especially  hard  to  con- 
found, as  it  is  based  on  ignorance  which  does  not  want  to 
be  enlightened  and  on  intolerance  which  fears  the  wider 
charity  of  understanding. 



As  we  know,  the  natives  not  only  have  definite  laws, 
stringent  in  their  application  and  enforced  by  punish- 



mentSj  but  also  a  sense  of  right  and  wrong  and  canons  of 
correct  behaviour  not  devoid  of  delicacy  and  refinement. 

The  forms  and  customs  which  are  associated  with  the 
conduct  of  such  elementary  physiological  functions  as  eat- 
ing and  drinking,  defecation  and  micturition  are  a  good 
illustration  of  this,  and  are  also  illuminating  and  relevant 
to  our  immediate  subject,  sexual  manners. 

Eating  is  not  regarded  as  indispensable  to  life,  nor  is 
the  value  of  food  as  a  utility  recognized  and  formulated 
by  the  natives.  In  fact,  they  have  no  idea  that  there  is 
such  a  thing  as  physiological  need  for  alimentation,  or 
that  the  body  is  built  up  on  food.  According  to  them, 
one  eats  because  one  has  appetite,  because  one  is  hungry 
or  greedy.  The  act  of  eating  is  very  pleasant,  and  it  is 
a  suitable  expression  of  a  joyful  mood.  Large  accumula- 
tions of  food  (pi.  84),  their  formal  distribution  (sagali) 
and,  at  times,  their  immediate,  though  not  public,  con- 
sumption form  the  core  of  all  native  festivities  and  cere- 
monies. "We  shall  be  glad,  we  shall  eat  till  we  vomit," 
say  the  natives,  in  anticipation  of  some  tribal  ceremony 
or  festival.  To  give  food  is  a,  virtuous  act.  The  provider 
of  food,  the  organizer  of  many  big  sagali  (distributions) 
is  a  great  man  and  a  good  man.  Food  is  displayed  in  all 
forms  and  on  all  occasions,  and  they  show  great  interest 
in  new  crops,  in  a  rich  yield  of  garden  produce,  and  in  a 
large  catch  of  fish  (see  pi.  85). 

Yet  meals  are  never  taken  in  public,  and  eating  is  alto- 
gether regarded  as  a  rather  dangerous  and  delicate  act. 
Not  only  will  people  never  eat  in  a  strange  village,  but 
even  within  the  same  community  the  custom  of  eating 
in  common  is  limited.    After  a  big  distribution,  the  people 



retire  to  their  own  fireplaces  with  their  portion,  each  group 
turning  its  back  on  the  rest.  There  is  no  actual  con- 
viviality on  a  large  scale.  Even  when  the  big  communal 
cooldng  of  taro  takes  place,  small  groups  of  related 
people  assemble  round  the  pot  which  has  been  allotted  to 
them,  and  which  they  have  carried  away  to  a  secluded 
spot.  There  they  eat  rapidly,  no  one  else  witnessing  the 
performance  (pi.  86). 

In  fact,  eating  is  rather  a  means  of  social  division  and 
discrimination  than  a  way  of  bringing  people  together. 
To  begin  with,  distinctions  of  rank  are  marked  by  food 
taboos.  People  of  the  highest  rank  are  practically  con- 
strained to  eat  within  their  own  circle,  and  those  of  a  lower 
status  have  to  forgo  part  of  their  normal  diet  if  they 
eat  in  the  presence  of  their  superiors,  in  order  not  to 
shock  them.  Table  manners  are  thus  a  household  affair 
and  are  not  very  polished.  Food  is  eaten  with  the  fingers  j 
and  smacking  of  lips,  noisy  expressions  of  enjoyment  and 
belching  are  not  considered  incorrect.  To  be  intently  con- 
centrated on  one's  food  and  to  eat  voraciously  is,  however, 
thought  to  be  ugly. 

Plenty  in  the  matter  of  food  is  good  and  honourable, 
scarcity  is  shameful  and  bad.  But  opulence  in  food  is  a 
matter  of  privilege,  to  be  enjoyed  in  safety  only  by  chiefs 
and  people  of  higher  rank.  It  is  distinctly  dangerous  for 
a  commoner  to  be  too  good  a  gardener,  to  have  too  big, 
too  richly  decorated  and  too  well-filled  yam  houses.  The 
chief  distributes  food  in  the  form  of  gifts,  he  receives  it 
in  the  form  of  tribute.  He  alone  should  have  decorated 
yam  houses  j  he  must  surpass  everybody  in  the  display 



of  food  during  the  milamala  (the  return  of  the  spirits), 
at  ceremonial  distributions  and  during  the  harvest. 

Psychologically  interesting  is  the  magic  called  vila- 
fi^alia.  It  is  directed  against  the  elementary  impulse  to 
€at  and  takes  away  appetite,  so  that  the  food  remains  in 
the  yam  houses  until  it  rots.  Malta  (plenty)  and  molu 
(scarcity  or  hunger)  are  very  important  categories  in 
native  life.^  Molu  is  bad  and  shameful.  It  is  a  terrible 
insult  to  tell  a  man  he  is  hungry 3  to  say  to  him:  gala  kam 
("no  food  thine" — "thou  hast  no  food")  or  togalagala 
yoku  ("thou  art  a  man  of  no  substance").  The  use  of 
scarcity  and  hunger  as  means  of  insult  is  an  illustration 
of  the  ways  in  which  shortcomings  can  be  brought  home 
to  the  natives.  A  man  will  endure  real  hunger  rather  than 
expose  himself  to  the  sarcastic  question:  "Is  there  no  food 
in  thy  village?" 

To  sum  up :  the  act  of  eating  is  regarded  by  the  natives 
as  an  expression  of  a  powerful  impulse,  of  a  strong  pas- 
sion. As  such  it  is  an  important  part  of  the  ordinary 
routine  of  lifej  the  evening  meal  is  as  indispensable  a 
domestic  event  as  rest  after  work  and  conversation  with 
the  neighbours.  It  also  occupies  an  important  place  in 
every  festival  and  within  the  realms  of  the  sacred.  Food 
is  a  means  of  emphasizing  social  distinctions,  whether  of 
rank  or  in  tribal  grouping,  and  thus  indirectly  provides  a 
tond  of  social  union.  What  happens  in  the  alimentary 
duct  after  the  food  has  been  swallowed  is  not  a  matter 
of  concern  to  the  natives  5  nor  does  metabolism  influence 

1  Cf.   my  article,   "The  Lunar  and   Seasonal   Calendar  in  the    Frobri- 
ands,"  Journal  of  the  Royal  Anthropological  Institute,  1927. 



cultural  life  again  until  the  alimentary  process  is  com- 
plete, when  waste  matters  claim  the  native's  attention  and 
demand  customs  and  cultural  arrangements  for  the  dis- 
guise of  excretory  processes.  For,  as  we  pointed  out  when 
describing  the  care  of  the  body  (see  ch.  x,  sec.  4),  the 
natives  have  a  strong  sesthetic  feeling  against  uncleanli- 
ness,  whether  in  their  own  persons  or  in  their  surround- 
ings. Unpleasant  smells  and  unclean  matters  disgust 
them,  especially  if  they  are  of  an  excretory  nature. 

For  this  reason  the  greatest  hardship  of  mourning  lies, 
not  in  the  covering  of  the  body  with  soot  or  charcoal,  but 
in  the  taboo  on  ablutions.  Excretion  within  the  house  is 
quoted  as  a  very  heavy  burden  on  those  confined  by 
mourning  or  disease  and  on  their  relatives  who  have  to 
perform  the  necessary  services.  The  duty  of  receiving 
the  excreta  of  small  children  in  receptacles,  with  the  lia- 
bility of  becoming  soiled  and  the  necessity  of  carrying 
the  dirty  matter  into  the  bush,  is  often  mentioned  as  one 
of  the  hardships  which  give  to  parents,  and  especially  to 
the  father,  a  permanent  claim  on  the  gratitude  of  the 
child.  It  is  also  quoted  as  a  reason  why  the  child  should 
look  after  the  parents  later  on,  and  incidentally  repay 
these  particular  services  in  kind  should  they  fall  ill. 

The  handling  of  the  corpse  and  the  operations  upon 
it  incidental  to  certain  mortuary  practices  j  the  ritual  swal- 
lowing of  putrid  matter  which  is  a  duty  of  some  of  the 
survivors,  are  obligations  which  involve  heroic  devotion 
on  the  part  of  the  performers. 

Good  care  is  taken  to  prevent  the  accumulation  of  dirt 
in  the  village,  above  all  to  prevent  any  excretorv  matter 



from  being  deposited  near  the  settlement.  Villages  are 
always  carefully  swept,  and  all  refuse  placed  on  the  out- 
skirts in  large  heaps  called  wawa.  Especially  offensive 
matters,  such  as  decomposing  fish,  are  usually  covered 
with  earth. 

The  sanitary  arrangements  consist  of  two  reserves  in 
the  bush  at  some  distance  from  the  village,  the  one  fre- 
quented by  men  and  the  other  by  women.  These  reserves 
are  scrupulously  adhered  to,  and  the  surroundings  of  a 
village  in  the  Trobriands,  as  well  as  the  roads,  would 
compare  favourably  with  those  in  most  European  coun- 
tries, especially  the  Latin  ones. 

Natives  will  never  go  to  these  reserves  together,  nor 
will  they  ever  defecate  near  one  another.  At  sea,  a  man 
will  enter  the  water  and  ease  himself  below  the  surface, 
supported  by  others  in  the  canoe  5  for  defecation  both  sexes 
squat  5  for  micturition  the  women  squat  and  men  remain 

Certain  villages,  squeezed  in  between  mangrove  swamp 
and  lagoon,  have  little  dry  land  outside  the  settlement, 
and  find  it  hard  to  satisfy  the  demands  of  sanitation 
(pi.  87).  In  such  a  village  each  sex  repairs  to  one  side 
of  the  beach  and  tries  to  choose  a  spot  which  will  be  cov- 
ered by  the  tide.  But  even  so  they  have  an  evil  reputa- 
tion, and  often,  in  passing  through  one,  I  have  seen  my 
native  companions  close  their  nostrils  and  spit  freely,  and 
have  heard  their  outspoken  comments  upon  its  dirt.  And 
yet,  in  these  fishing  villages,  even  the  refuse  of  fish  is 
carefully  disposed  of,  and  after  preparing  fish  for  eating 



the  people  always  wash  their  hands  carefully  and  anoint 
themselves  with  coco-nut  oil. 

After  excretion  the  parts  are  carefully  cleansed  with 
soft  leaves,  called  in  this  context  foyewesi  (po,  root  of 
"excretion" 5  yewesiy  leaves).  Children  are  taught  to 
observe  strict  cleanliness  in  this  respect,  and  a  careless 
child  is  not  infrequently  shamed  by  its  parents  or 
elders: — 

Mayna      foful  gala  kuvaysi 

Odour  of  excrement!  Not  thou  wipest 

kosiyam  mayna  kasukwanise! 

thy  remnant  of  excrement,     odour   we     (excl.)    smell! 

Social  distinctions  influence  considerably  the  way  in 
which  natives  are  allowed  to  speak  about  the  subject.  The 
ordinary  name  for  excrement  (popu)^  or  the  verb  to 
defecate  (popu  or  fwaya)  are  never  used  in  the  presence 
of  a  guya^u  (chief,  man  of  high  rank).  A  special  polite 
word,  solu  or  sola  (lit.:  "descend"),  is  substituted,  or  else 
such  euphemisms  as  to  "go  down"  {busi)j  "go  and  re- 
turn" {bala  haka^ita),  A  man  would  never  excuse  him- 
self from  a  chief's  presence  by  saying,  "I  have  to  go  and 
defecate"  {bala  bafofu)^  he  would  say  instead:  bala 
basoluy  or  bala  babusiy  "I  shall  go  down"j  or  bala 
baka^itay  "I  shall  go  and  return." 

The  word  "excrement"  is  also  used  in  the  typical  form 
of  bad  language,  "eat  thy  dirt"  {kumkwam  fofu  or 
kukome  kam  fofu).  This  expression,  if  used  good- 
humouredly,  might  be  taken  as  a  joke  and  condoned,  but 
it  lies  on  the  border-line  between  chaflF  and  insult,  and 



must  never  be  said  angrily.  Above  all,  it  must  never  be 
said  in  the  presence  of  a  chief,  and  to  use  it  to  him  as  an 
insult  is  an  unpardonable  offence. 

The  following  incident,  which  took  place  during  the 
last  war  between  To'uluwa,  high  chief  of  Omarakana, 
and  his  traditional  foe,  the  headman  of  Kabwaku,  is  a 
good  illustration  of  the  native  attitude  towards  this  insult 
when  directed  against  a  chief.  During  a  lull  in  the  fight- 
ing, when  the  two  forces  were  facing  each  other,  a 
Kabwaku  man,  Si'ulobubu,  climbed  a  tree  and  addressed 
To'uluwa  in  a  loud  voice:  ^^Kukome  kam  fofUy  To^u^ 
luwa?^  Here  was  the  insult  delivered  with  every  aggra- 
vating circumstance.  It  was  addressed  to  a  chief,  it  was 
said  aloud  and  in  public,  and  the  personal  name  was 
added,  the  form  in  which  the  insult  is  deadliest.  After 
the  war,  when  peace  was  concluded  and  all  other  enmities 
forgotten,  Si'ulobubu  was  openly  speared  in  broad  day- 
light by  a  few  men  sent  by  To'uluwa  for  that  purpose. 
The  victim's  family  and  clansmen  did  not  even  raise  a 
protest,  still  less  did  they  ask  for  "blood  money,"  or 
start  a  lugwa  (vendetta).  Everybody  knew  that  the  man 
had  deserved  this  punishment  and  that  his  death  was  a 
just  and  adequate  mapda  (payment,  retribution)  for  his 
crime.  It  is  even  an  insult  to  make  this  remark  to  a 
chief's  pig  in  his  hearing,  though  it  is  permitted  so  to 
address  his  dog.^ 

The  dissociation  between  sex  and  excretion,  or  the 
excretory  processes,  is  very  pronounced  in  native  sentiment 

1  Cf.  the  myth  of  the  pig  and  the  dog  below  in  sec  5,  and  in  Myth  in 
Primitive  Psychology,  1926,  where  its  historical  importance  is  discussed. 



and  idea.  As  we  know,  scrupulous  cleanliness  is  an 
essential  in  the  ideal  of  personal  attraction.  Sodomy  is 
repugnant  to  natives,  and  their  attitude  to  it  is  summed 
up  in  the  phrase:  matauna  ikaye  fofu  ("this  man  copu- 
lates excrement").  Fseces  have  no  place  in  magic,  custom, 
or  ritual  5  nor  do  they  even  play  any  part  in  sorcery. 

In  my  own  experience  I  have  always  found  the  natives 
very  clean  and  never  received  any  unpleasant  olfactory 
impression  in  my  various  social  contacts  with  them.  Nor, 
by  the  consensus  of  opinion  among  white  residents,  is  their 
bodily  odour  unpleasant  to  the  European. 

Intestinal  gases  are  never  released  in  the  presence  of 
other  people.  Such  an  act  is  considered  very  shameful, 
and  would  dishonour  and  mortify  anyone  guilty  of  it. 
Even  in  a  crowd  where  it  can  be  committed  anonymously, 
such  a  breach  of  etiquette  never  happens  in  Melanesia,  so 
that  a  native  crowd  is  considerably  more  pleasant  in  this 
respect  than  a  gathering  of  European  peasants.^  If  such 
a  mishap  befalls  a  man  by  accident,  he  feels  the  disgrace 
deeply  and  his  reputation  suffers.  Also  it  will  be  re- 
membered how  quickly  an  explosive  escape  of  intestinal 
gas  was  visited  upon  the  unfortunate  louse  in  one  of  the 
fireside  stories  told  in  the  last  chapter. 

Scents  are  as  much  appreciated  and  sought  after  as 
bad  smells  are  abhorred  and  avoided.  We  have  seen 
what  an  important  part  is  played  in  native  toilet  by  the 
variously  and  exquisitely  scented  flowers  of  the  Islands: 
the  long  white  petals  of  the  pandanus,  the  hutia  and  a 

1  For  some  interesting  sociology  on  this  subject  as  among  European 
peasants,  cf.  Zola's  La  Terre. 



long  list  of  aromatic  herbs,  in  which  the  mint  {sulufn- 
woyd)  takes  the  leadj  and  we  have  also  seen  the  use  made 
of  oil  perfumed  with  sandal  wood.  Pleasant  smells  are 
closely  associated  with  magical  influence  5  and  as  we  know 
already  many  charms  in  the  magic  of  kula^  of  love,  of 
beauty,  and  of  success  are  made  over  mint,  over  the  hutia 
flower,  and  over  several  aromatic  herbs  used  as  vana  (tuft 
placed  in  the  armlet).  Personal  cleanliness  is  an  essen- 
tial in  all  these  forms  of  magic,  and  charming  the 
kaykakaya  (washing  leaves)  is  an  important  part  of  the 

Indeed,  the  sense  of  smell  is  the  most  important  factor 
in  the  laying  of  spells  on  people  j  magic,  in  order  to 
achieve  its  greatest  potency,  must  enter  through  the  nose. 
Love  charms  are  borne  into  the  victim  on  the  scent  of 
some  spellbound  aromatic  substance.  In  the  second  and 
very  dangerous  stage  of  sorcery,  the  object  or  compound 
over  which  black  magic  has  been  done  is  burned,  and  the 
smoke  enters  through  the  nostrils  into  the  body  against 
which  it  is  directed  and  causes  disease  {silamt).  For  this 
reason,  houses  are  never  built  on  piles  in  the  Trobriands, 
as  it  would  greatly  facilitate  this  stage  in  the  sorcerer's 
work.  Thus  the  idea  of  magical  infection  through  the 
nose  exercises  a  considerable  influence  on  the  culture  of 
the  natives. 

The  malignant  witches  {mulukwausi)  are  believed  to 
emit  a  smell  reminiscent  of  excrement.  This  smell  is 
much  feared,  especially  by  people  who  are  sailing,  for 

1  Cf.  chs.  viii  and  xi  of  this  book,  and  chs.  xiii  and  xvii  of  Argonauts 
of  the  Western  Pacific. 



witches  are  very  dangerous  on  water.  In  general  the 
smell  of  ordure  and  decomposing  matter  is  thought  to  be 
noxious  tcr  human  health.  The  natives  believe  that  a 
special  substance  emanates  from  the  corpse  of  a  dead 
person.  This,  though  invisible  to  the  ordinary  eye,  can 
be  seen  by  sorcerers,  to  whom  it  appears  somewhat  like 
the  cloud  of  smoke  {hwaulo)  which  hangs  over  a  village. 
This  emanation,  which  is  also  called  hwauloy  is  especially 
dangerous  to  the  maternal  kinsmen  of  the  deceased,  and 
because  of  it  they  must  not  approach  the  corpse,  nor  per- 
form any  of  the  mortuary  duties  (see  ch.  vi,  sec.  2). 

A  few  words  will  suffice  to  recapitulate  here  what  we 
already  know  (see  ch.  x,  sec.  4)  about  the  conventions, 
manners,  and  morals  of  dress.  The  various  functions  of 
attire  in  enhancing  personal  beauty,  in  marking  social  dis- 
tinctions, in  expressing  the  character  of  the  occasion  on 
which  they  are  worn  do  not  concern  us  here,  but  a  word 
must  be  added  about  dress  in  its  relation  to  modesty. 
Modesty  in  the  Trobriands  requires  only  that  the  genitals 
and  a  small  part  of  the  adjacent  areas  should  be  covered, 
but  the  native  has  absolutely  the  same  moral  and  psy- 
chological attitude  towards  any  infringement  of  these 
demands  as  we  have.  It  is  bad,  and  shameful,  and  ludi- 
crous in  a  degrading  sense  not  to  conceal,  carefully  and 
properly,  those  parts  of  the  human  body  which  should 
be  covered  by  dress.  Moreover  there  is  a  certain  co- 
quettish emphasis  in  the  care  and  elegance  with  which 
women  manipulate  their  fibre  skirts  whenever  they  fear 
that  dress  may  fail  in  its  duty,  through  wind  or  rapid 



The  broad  bleached  leaf  of  the  pandanus  or  areca  palm 
which  covers  the  male  genitals  is  always  put  in  place  so 
precisely  and  securely  that  no  instance  of  disarrangement 
has  occurred  within  my  knowledge.  No  person  must  ever 
touch  it  when  it  is  in  position.  The  word  for  it,  yavigUy 
used  with  the  pronoun  of  nearest  possession  as  if  it  were 
a  part  of  the  body,  is  also  an  improper  word  which  must 
not  be  uttered  save  in  intimacy.  It  is  interesting,  how- 
ever, that  when  it  is  necessary  for  practical  reasons  for 
men  to  take  off  the  pubic  leaf,  as  during  the  fishing  or 
diving  activities,  this  is  done  without  either  false  shame  or 
the  slightest  symptom  of  improper  interest.  The  natives 
convey  clearly  by  behaviour  and  comment  that  nakedness 
is  not  shameful  when  it  is  necessary,  but  becomes  so  when 
due  to  carelessness  or  lewdness  (see  ch.  iii,  sec.  i,  and 
sees.  3  and  4  of  this  chap.).  Though  the  taboos  sur- 
rounding female  dress  and  its  name  are  less  stringent,  it 
is  just  as  carefully  used  as  an  instrument  of  modesty. 

I  have  assembled  these  facts  from  certain  aspects  of 
intimate  life,  from  the  physiology  of  eating  and  excre- 
tion and  from  the  treatment  of  anatomical  aspects  of  the 
body,  to  illustrate  native  manners  j  and  to  demonstrate 
that,  in  spite  of  certain  things  which  shock  us  profoundly, 
the  natives  show  a  delicacy  and  restraint  in  others  which 
not  only  is  elaborate  and  well  defined,  but  is  expressive 
of  real  moral  attitudes:  a  substantial  consideration  for  the 
feelings  of  others  and  certain  sound  biological  principles. 
We  may  be  shocked  at  a  savage  who  tears  his  meat  with 
his  fingers,  smacks  his  lips,  grunts  and  belches  in  the 
enjoyment  of  his  foodj  while  the  custom  of  eating  each 



other's  lice  is  to  us  decidedly  unappetizing.  But  the 
native  is  equally  disgusted  when  the  European  gorges 
himself  on  stinking  cheese,  or  consumes  undefined  abomi- 
nations from  tins  j  or  when  he  unashamedly  eats  stingaree, 
wild  pig  or  any  other  matters  permitted  only  to  people 
of  the  lowest  rank.  He  is  also  shocked  at  the  white 
man's  habit  of  making  himself  temporarily  imbecile  or 
violent  with  gin  and  whisky.  If,  to  an  uneducated  white 
man,  Melanesian  dress  may  appear  inadequate,  the 
strange  custom  prevalent  among  white  women  of  reducing 
instead  of  adding  to  their  dress  for  festive  occasions  is 
upsetting  and  indecorous  to  the  native  who  meets  it  on 
his  travels  to  European  settlements. 

Even  now,  when  a  more  liberal  and  instructed  policy 
directs  the  relations  between  native  and  European,  it  is 
well  to  remember  these  things  5  and  to  keep  in  mind  that 
wisdom  and  good  manners  alike  demand  that  we  respect 
those  feelings  in  other  people  which  are  dictated  by  their 
own  cultural  standards. 


Before  proceeding  to  a  detailed  consideration  of  the 
subject  of  this  section,  we  will  assemble  and  briefly  re- 
state the  relevant  facts  already  in  our  possession,  so  that 
they  may  be  presented  to  the  reader  in  their  proper  per- 
spective. For  the  inter-relation  of  facts  and  the  pro- 
portions they  assume  in  native  life  are  as  important  as, 
if  not  more  so  than,  the  isolated  facts  themselves,  if  we 



are  to  arrive  at  right  conclusions  and  have  a  true  picture 
of  Trobriand  communal  life. 

And  to  see  the  facts  from  the  native  point  of  view, 
that  is,  in  their  true  relation  to  tribal  life,  we  must  again 
remind  ourselves  that  sex  as  such  is  not  tabooed.  That 
is  to  say,  the  sexual  act,  provided  that  it  is  carried  out  in 
private  and  within  certain  sociological  limits,  is  not  re- 
garded as  reprehensible,  even  when  it  is  not  sanctioned  by 
the  bond  of  marriage.  The  barriers  within  which  sexual 
freedom  obtains,  the  methods  by  which  these  barriers  are 
upheld  and  the  penalties  which  fall  upon  the  transgressor, 
can  be  classified  broadly  into  two  groups:  the  general 
taboos,  which  brand  certain  forms  of  sexual  activity  as 
objectionable,  indecent,  or  contemptible 5  and  the  socio- 
logical restrictions  which  debar  certain  individuals  and 
groups  from  sexual  access. 


I.  Byways  and  aberrations  of  the  sexual  Imfulse. — 
Homosexual  intercourse,  bestiality,  exhibitionism,  oral 
and  anal  eroticism — to  use  psycho-analytic  terminology — 
are,  as  we  already  know,  regarded  by  the  natives  as  inade- 
quate and  contemptible  substitutes  for  the  proper  exer- 
cise of  the  sexual  impulse.  The  natives  achieve  an  almost 
complete  freedom  from  perversion  by  means  of  what 
might  be  called  psychological  rather  than  social  sanctions. 
Sexual  aberrations  are  ridiculed,  they  are  a  subject  for 
invective  and  comic  anecdote,  and  thus  treated,  they  are 
not  only  branded  as  improper  but  are  effectively  made 



2.  Publicity  and  lack  of  decorum  in  sexual  matters, — 
Public  display  of  the  sexual  act  or  of  erotic  approaches 
is  almost  completely  absent  from  tribal  life.  Lack  of 
care  in  avoiding  publicity,  curiosity  and  any  attempt  to  spy 
on  other  people's  love-making  are  regarded  as  unseemly 
and  contemptible.  There  are  few  occasions  in  tribal  life 
when  the  sexual  act  could  be  carried  on  in  public,  nor 
does  the  voyeur  figure  even  in  their  pornographic  folk- 
lore. The  only  exception  from  this  rule  are  the  erotic 
competitive  festivals  {kayasa)^  described  in  chapter  ix, 
section  5.  From  the  taboo  of  publicity  only  the  souls  of 
the  blessed  in  Tuma  are  permanently  released,  while  in 
the  legendary  accounts  of  female  assaults  on  men  (in  the 
custom  of  yausay  and  on  the  Island  of  Kaytalugi),  the 
openness  with  which  copulation  takes  place  is  regarded  as 
an  additional  outrage  on  the  passive  victims.  Thus  sexual 
intercourse,  to  be  in  accordance  with  tribal  sanctions,  must 
be  carried  on  within  the  strictest  limits  of  privacy  and 

3.  Sexual  excess, — ^The  exhibition  of  sexual  greed,  or 
an  unabashed  forwardness  in  courting  the  favour  of  the 
other  sex,  is  regarded  as  bad  and  despicable  in  either  man 
or  woman,  but  more  especially  in  woman.  This  moral 
attitude  should  be  strictly  distinguished  from  the  censure 
incurred  by  those  people  who  are  too  successful  in  love, 
and  who  therefore  arouse  anger  and  jealousy. 

4.  hack  of  taste. — ^We  have  learned  (ch.  x,  sec.  2) 
the  forms  of  ugliness  and  repulsiveness  which  are  re- 
garded as  deterrent  to  erotic  interest  and  that  the  natives 
will  even  go  so  far  as  to  affirm  that  no  one  could  or 



would  have  intercourse  with  a  person  so  afflicted.  Behind 
this  mere  statement  of  fact  there  is  a  definite  censure  of 
a  mixed  moral  and  aesthetic  character  which  is  based  on  a 
real  and  lively  sentiment,  even  though  this  fails  occa- 
sionally in  practice.  It  is  bad,  unbecoming,  and  worthy  of 
contempt  to  have  anything  to  do  with  a  human  being 
whose  body  arouses  repugnance.  This  class  of  taboo  has 
already  been  dealt  with  (in  chap,  x,  sec.  2),  and  it  will 
not  be  necessary  to  return  to  it. 

5.  Miscellaneous  and  minor  taboos, — ^There  are  a 
number  of  pursuits  which,  while  in  progress,  entail  absti- 
nence from  sexual  intercourse  and  all  contact  with  women  j 
such,  for  example,  are  war,  oversea  sailing  expeditions, 
gardening  and  one  or  two  magical  rites.  Again,  in  certain 
physiological  crises,  above  all  pregnancy  and  lactation,  a 
woman  must  not  be  approached  by  a  man.  The  general 
principle  which  such  taboos  express  is  that  sex  is  incom- 
patible with  certain  conditions  of  the  human  body  and 
with  the  nature  and  purpose  of  certain  occupations  j  and 
it  must  not  be  allowed  to  interfere  with  these. 


6.  Exogamy, — Sexual  intercourse  and  marriage  are 
not  allowed  within  the  same  totemic  clan.  They  are  more 
emphatically  forbidden  within  a  sub-division  of  the  clan, 
common  membership  in  which  means  real  kinship.  And 
the  taboo  is  stricter  yet  between  two  people  who  can  trace 
a  common  descent  genealogically.  Yet  the  natives  have 
only  one  word,  suvasova^  to  designate  all  these  degrees 
of  exogamous  taboo.    Also,  in  legal  and  formal  fiction, 



the  natives  would  maintain  that  all  exogamous  taboos, 
whether  of  clan,  sub-clan  or  proven  kinship,  were  equally 
binding.  Thus,  while  an  ethnographer  would  get  one 
impression  through  conversation,  he  would  get  an  entirely 
different  one  by  observing  the  behaviour  of  the  natives. 
In  the  more  detailed  examination  of  the  subject  which 
follows,  we  shall  set  practice  and  legal  fiction  side  by  side, 
and  show  how  these  work  in  together. 

7.  Taboos  within  the  family  and  household, — ^The 
father  is  not  a  kinsman  of  his  children,  and  therefore  is 
not  included  in  exogamous  prohibitions.  Nevertheless, 
intercourse  between  father  and  daughter  is  definitely  and 
strongly  forbidden.  There  is  no  doubt  that  the  taboo 
which  separates  members  of  the  same  household  is,  in  the 
reality  of  tribal  life  though  not  in  legal  theory,  a  distinct 
force  which  is  superadded  to  the  exogamous  taboo.  Not 
only  do  we  find  its  influence  in  the  separation  of  father 
and  daughter,  but  also  in  the  fact  that  incest  with  the 
own  mother  and  with  the  own  sister  arouses  incomparably 
greater  moral  indignation  than  incest  with  a  cousin  j  not 
to  speak  of  incest  with  a  "classificatory"  mother  or  a 
"classificatory"  sister,  which  is  easily  condoned. 

8.  The  taboo  of  adultery. — ^This  safeguard  to  the 
institution  of  marriage  need  only  be  mentioned  here,  as  it 
has  been  fully  dealt  with  in  chapter  v. 

9.  The  taboos  of  relationship  in  law. — Although 
there  is  no  formal  avoidance,  sexual  intercourse  between 
a  man  and  his  mother-in-law  is  definitely  wrong.  Neither 
must  a  man  have  erotic  relations  with  the  sisters  of  his 
wife  or  with  the  wife  of  his  brother.     Marriage  with  a 



deceased  wife's  sister,  though  not  forbidden,  is  regarded 
with  disfavour. 

10.  Rules  safeguarding  the  frivileges  of  the  chief. — 
This  type  of  restriction  and  those  which  follow  are  not  of 
the  same  stringency  as  the  foregoing  taboos.  They  are 
rather  vague  rules  of  conduct,  enforced  by  a  general 
feeling  for  what  is  expedient  and  by  somewhat  diffuse 
social  sanctions.  It  is  unsafe  to  interfere  with  any  woman 
in  whom  a  man  of  high  rank  is  interested.  The  ordinary 
prohibition  of  adultery  becomes  much  more  stringent 
when  the  woman  concerned  is  married  to  a  chief.  The 
chief's  wife,  giyovilay  is  the  subject  of  a  special  reverence 
and  of  a  general  taboo,  which,  however,  is  honoured  as 
much  in  the  breach  as  in  the  observance.  For  she  is  more 
desirable  and  generally  no  less  willing  to  be  desired  5  and 
there  is  a  touch  of  irony  and  mock  respect  in  certain 
sayings  and  turns  of  speech  in  which  the  word  giyovila 

11.  Barriers  of  rank. — The  distinction  between  high 
and  low  birth,  which  divides  one  sub-clan  from  another, 
applies  to  women  as  well  as  to  men.  It  is  a  general  prin- 
ciple that  people  of  high  rank  {guya^u)  shall  not  mate 
with  commoners  {tokay).  In  marriage,  this  rule  is  strictly 
kept  only  with  regard  to  the  pariah  communities  of 
Bwaytalu  and  Ba'u,  which  have  had  perforce  to  become 
endogamous,  since  no  man  or  woman  from  another  village 
likes  to  enter  into  permanent  union  with  any  of  the  in- 
habitants. The  members  of  the  highest  sub-clan,  the 
Tabalu  of  Omarakana  (of  the  Malasi  clan),  find  their 



most  fitting  consorts  among  two  or  three  other  dala  (sub- 
clans)  in  the  north-western  district. 

In  prenuptial  intercourse,  also,  there  would  be  some 
show  of  discrimination.  A  girl  of  high  rank  would  be 
ashamed  of  owning  to  an  intrigue  with  a  low-class  com- 
moner. But  the  distinctions  in  rank  are  many  and  their 
interpretation  not  too  rigid  j  and  the  rule  is  certainly  not 
followed  strictly  where  intrigues  are  concerned.  Girls  of 
high-rank  villages,  such  as  Omarakana,  Liluta,  Osapola, 
or  Kwaybwaga,  do  not  visit  the  "impure"  villages,  Ba'u 
and  Bwoytalu,  on  katuyausi  expeditions. 

12.  Restrictions  as  to  number  in  intrigues. — As  we 
have  already  said,  too  open  and  too  insistent  an  interest 
in  sex,  especially  when  exhibited  by  a  woman,  and  too 
obvious  and  too  general  a  success  in  love  are  both  cen- 
sured j  but  the  kind  of  censure  is  entirely  different  in  the 
two  cases.  In  the  latter,  it  is  the  male  who  incurs  the 
disapproval  of  his  less  fortunate  rivals.  The  great 
dancer,  the  famous  love  magician  or  charmer  of  his  own 
beauty,  is  exposed  to  intense  distrust  and  hatred,  and  to 
the  dangers  of  sorcery.  His  conduct  is  considered  "bad," 
not  as  "shameful,"  but  rather  as  enviable  and,  at  the  same 
time,  injurious  to  the  interests  of  others. 

This  concludes  the  list  of  restrictions  placed  upon  free- 
dom in  sexual  intercourse.  It  is  clear  that  moral  indigna- 
tion varies  in  kind  and  degree  with  the  categories  trans- 
gressed— ^whether  these  be  perversion  or  incest,  breach 
of  exogamy  or  the  infringement  of  matrimonial  and  other 
prerogatives.     The  last  four  categories — adultery,  tres- 



pass  on  the  chief's  preserves,  intercourse  with  social  in- 
feriors, and  numerical  excess  of  intrigues — embrace  of- 
fences which  arouse  neither  contempt  nor  moral  indigna- 
tion j  they  are  enforced  according  to  the  power  of  the 
aggrieved  party,  backed  by  the  passive  support  of  com- 
munal opinion.  An  adulterer  caught  in  -flagrante  may 
be  killed,  and  this  will  be  recognized  as  legal  retribution, 
and  not  be  followed  up  by  a  vendetta,  especially  if  the 
adultery  be  with  a  chief's  wife  (see  ch.  v,  sec.  2).  The 
pre-eminently  successful  man— especially  if  of  low  rank 
and  distinguished  only  by  personal  qualities — ^would  be 
exposed  to  the  danger  of  sorcery  rather  than  to  that  of 
direct  violence.  And  sorcery  also  would  be  used  against 
a  man  suspected  of  adultery  but  not  caught  in  the  act. 
An  interesting  ethnological  document,  which  throws 
some  light  on  the  retributive  use  of  sorcery,  is  provided 
by  the  specific  signs  found  on  a  corpse  at  exhumation  indi- 
cating the  habit,  the  quality,  or  the  misdeeds  for  which 
the  man  was  killed  by  sorcery.  The  natives — in  common 
with  most  primitive  races — do  not  understand  "death 
from  natural  causes."  When  not  the  result  of  an  obvious 
physical  lesion,  death  is  caused  by  black  magic,  practised 
by  a  sorcerer  on  his  own  account,  or  on  behalf  of  some 
notable  who  pays  him  to  bring  about  his  enemy's  death. 
On  the  body  of  the  victim,  when  it  is  ritually  taken  out 
of  the  grave,  are  found  signs  {kala  wabu)  which  show 
why  he  was  killed  and  thus  indicate  on  whose  behalf  it 
was  done.  Such  signs  may  point  to  sexual  jealousy,  per- 
sonal antagonism,  political  or  economic  envy  as  the 
motive  5  and  of  frequent  occurrence  is  the  sign  indicating 



that  the  victim's  too  pronounced  erotic  propensities  were 
his  undoing. 

Thus  marks  are  sometimes  found  on  a  corpse  which 
resemble  the  erotic  scratches  {kimali)  so  characteristic  of 
native  love-making.  Or  the  body  when  exhumed  is 
found  doubled  up  with  the  legs  apart,  an  attitude  taken 
during  copulation  by  man  as  well  as  by  woman.  Or  the 
mouth  is  pursed,  as  if  to  produce  the  loud  smacking  of  the 
lips  by  which  one  sex  invites  the  other  into  the  darkness 
beyond  the  light  of  village  fires.  Or  again  the  body 
swarms  with  lice,  and,  as  we  know,  lousing  each  other 
and  eating  the  catch  is  a  tender  occupation  of  lovers.  All 
these  signs  indicate  that  the  man  was  done  to  death  by 
sorcery  because  he  was  too  much  addicted  to  sexual 
pleasures,  or  could  boast  of  too  many  conquests  and  such 
as  gave  special  offence  to  some  powerful  rival.  There 
are  also  a  number  of  standardized  patterns  which  may  be 
found  on  a  corpse  suggestive  of  dancing  decoration. 
These  indicate  that  jealousy  of  his  personal  appearance, 
of  his  renown  as  a  dancer  and  as  a  seducer  by  the  dance 
was  the  cause  of  his  death.^ 

Such  signs  have  to  be  noted  by  the  deceased's  own 
relatives,  they  are  discussed  freely — ^generally,  however, 
without  any  mention  of  the  suspected  sorcerer's  name  or 
of  his  employer's — and  no  special  shame  attaches  to  them. 
This  is  noteworthy  in  connection  with  the  native's  attitude 
to  the  last  few  taboos,  that  is  those  which  safeguard  the 
rights  of  the  husband,  of  the  lover,  and  of  the  com- 

1  Compare  the  writer's  Crime  and  Custom,  pp.  87-94,  for  a  full  list  of 
sorcery  signs  and  their  significance  in  tribal  law. 



munity.  Success  in  love,  personal  beauty,  and  surpassing 
accomplishments  are  reprehensible  because  they  appeal 
especially  to  women  and  always  encroach  upon  the  rights 
of  someone  who,  if  he  can,  will  avenge  the  wrong  by 
means  of  sorcery.  But,  unlike  other  sexual  offences, 
adultery  and  success  with  women  are  not  felt  to  be  shame- 
ful or  morally  wrong.  On  the  contrary,  they  are  envi- 
able, and  surround  the  sinner  with  a  halo  of  almost  tragic 

Perhaps  the  most  important  linguistic  distinction  which 
throws  light  upon  the  native  psychology  as  regards  taboos 
is  furnished  by  the  use  of  the  word  bomala  (taboo).  This 
noun  takes  the  pronominal  suffixes  of  nearest  possession — 
homa-gu  (my  taboo),  homa-m  (thy  taboo),  homa-la  (his 
taboo) — which  signifies  that  a  man's  taboo,  the  things 
which  he  must  not  eat  or  touch  or  do,  is  linguistically 
classed  with  those  objects  most  intimately  bound  up  with 
his  person:  parts  of  his  body,  his  kindred,  and  such  per- 
sonal qualities  as  his  mind  {nanola)^  his  will  {magild)^ 
and  his  inside  (lofoula).  Thus  bomala,  those  things 
from  which  a  man  must  keep  away,  is  an  integral  part 
of  his  personality,  something  which  enters  into  his  moral 

Not  all  the  restrictions  and  prohibitions  on  our  list  can 
be  called  by  this  name.     And  when  it  is  correctly  used, 

1  It  was  necessary  to  classify  taboos  in  some  way,  in  order  to  present 
the  material  in  a  form  in  which  it  could  be  easily  surveyed.  Obviously 
my  fundamentum  di'visionis — the  type  of  action  forbidden — is  not  the  only 
possible  basis  for  such  a  classification.  The  taboos  could,  for  instance, 
be  regrouped  according  to  sanction,  intensity  of  moral  feeling,  or  the  vary- 
ing degree  of  general  interest  taken  in  the  prohibition.  These  differen- 
tiating qualities,  already  indicated,  will  emerge  even  more  clearly  in  the 
course  of  the  descriptions  which  follow. 



its  meaning  is  subject  to  many  subtle  variations,  indicated 
by  tone  and  context,  according  to  its  application.  In  its 
full  and  correct  meaning,  the  word  bomala  applies  to  all 
the  acts  which  are  specifically  called  by  the  natives 
suvasova — that  is,  to  incest  within  the  family  and  breach 
of  exogamy.  In  this  context,  the  word  bomala  denotes  an 
act  which  must  not  be  committed  because  it  is  contrary 
to  the  traditional  constitution  of  clan  and  family  5  and 
to  all  the  inviolable  laws  which  have  been  laid  down  in 
old  times  {tokunabogwo  ayguriy  "of  old  it  was  or- 
dained"). Besides  this  general  sanction,  which  is  felt  to 
be  rooted  in  the  primeval  nature  of  things,  the  breach  of 
the  suvasova  taboo  entails  a  supernatural  penalty:  an  ill- 
ness which  covers  the  skin  with  sores  and  produces  pains 
and  discomfort  throughout  the  body.  (This  supernatural 
penalty  can,  however,  be  evaded  by  the  performance  of 
a  specific  magic  which  removes  the  bad  effects  of  en- 
dogamous  intercourse.)  In  the  case  of  incest  between 
brother  and  sister,  a  very  strong  emotional  tone  enters 
into  the  attitude  of  the  natives,  that  is,  into  the  significance 
of  the  word  bomala^  endowing  it  with  an  unmistakable 
phonetic  colouring  of  horror  and  moral  repugnance. 
Thus  even  in  their  narrowest  and  most  exclusive  sense, 
the  words  bomala  and  suvasova  have  various  shades  of 
meaning  and  imply  a  complex  system  of  traditional  law 
and  of  social  mechanism.^ 

The  word  bomala  is  also  used  in  its  legitimate  sense 
of  "taboo"  for  the  several  minor  prohibitions,  such  as  are 

^  Compare  the  detailed  account  of  the  various  contraventions  and  eva- 
sions of  traditional  law  given  in  Crime  and  Custom* 



inherent  in  a  man's  office,  situation  or  activity,  and  in  this 
application  it  still  carries  something  of  the  idea  of  a 
peremptory  traditional  rule,  maintained  by  supernatural 
sanctions.  But  though  the  only  correct  description  for 
such  taboos  is  the  word  homalay  it  implies  in  this  context 
a  different  emotional  attitude,  milder  sanctions  and  a 
different  type  of  rule. 

In  a  less  rigid  sense  homala  is  used  to  denote  the  taboos 
of  adultery,  the  inexpediency  of  meddling  with  what  is 
sexually  claimed  by  a  chief,  and  the  undesirability  of 
mating  outside  one's  own  rank.  In  these  contexts,  how- 
ever, the  word  covers  only  the  idea  and  feeling  of  a 
definite  rule.  It  entails  neither  supernatural  sanctions 
nor  the  emotion  of  pronounced  moral  disapproval,  nor 
even  the  feeling  of  a  strong  obligation.  This  application 
of  the  word  is,  in  fact,  not  quite  correct:  the  word 
huhunelay  "custom,  the  things  which  are  done,"  used  with 
a  negative,  would  be  more  accurate  here. 

Bomala  could  not  be  correctly  used  of  actions  felt  to 
be  shameful  and  unnatural,  actions  of  which  no  sane  and 
self-respecting  person  would  be  guilty.  Neither  does  it 
apply  to  "lack  of  dignity  and  decorum,"  nor  to  actions 
of  hazardous  enjoyment,  nor  to  pre-eminent  sexual  suc- 

Thus,  by  the  rules  of  usage,  this  word  yields  a  native 
classification  of  taboos  into  three  groups:  the  genuine 
taboos  with  supernatural  sanction,  the  clear  prohibitions 
without  supernatural  sanction,  and  prohibitions  of  acts 
which  must  not  be  done  because  they  are  shameful,  dis- 
gusting, or  else  dangerous. 



The  widest  linguistic  instrument  serving  to  express  the 
distinction  between  lawful  and  forbidden,  and  applicable 
to  all  the  restrictions  of  our  twelve  classes,  is  given  by  the 
pair  of  words  bwoyna  and  gaga  (good  and  bad).  Such 
general  terms  are  naturally  of  loose  application,  cover  a 
wide  range  of  meanings,  and  gain  some  precision  only 
from  the  context  in  which  they  are  used.  Thus,  acts  as 
repugnant  and  unspeakable  as  brother-sister  incest,  and 
as  desirably  dangerous  as  adultery  with  a  chief's  wife, 
would  be  called  gaga  indiscriminately.  Gaga  means,  in 
one  context,  "morally  unpardonable  and  only  to  be  atoned 
by  suicide"  j  in  another,  "against  the  law,  against  cus- 
tom" 5  in  others,  "indecorous,"  "unpleasant,"  "ugly," 
"disgusting,"  ^^shameful,"  "dangerous,"  "dangerously 
daring,"  "dangerous  and  thus  admirable." 

Analogously,  the  word  bwoyna  means  everything  from 
"palatable,"  "pleasant,"  "seductive,"  "attractive  because 
naughty"  to  "morally  commendable  because  of  the  in- 
herent hardships."  An  action  which  is  strongly  flavoured 
with  the  tempting  taste  of  forbidden  fruit  might,  there- 
fore, be  plausibly  labelled  either  bwoyna  or  gagay  accord- 
ing to  the  mood,  context,  situation,  and  emotional  twist 
of  the  sentence.  So  that  these  words — taken  as  isolated 
fragments  of  vocabulary — afford  only  a  vague  index  to 
the  moral  statements,  and  do  not  give  us  even  as  much 
help  in  defining  native  views  and  values  as  the  word 

There  is,  perhaps,  no  more  dangerous  instrument  than 
a  native  vocabulary  for  the  unwary  ethnographer  to 
handle,  if  he  is  not  assisted  by  a  thorough  working  knowl- 



edge  of  the  native  language,  which  alone  enables  him 
to  control  the  meaning  of  his  terms  through  their  ex- 
tensive usage  in  various  contexts.  To  note  down  isolated 
terms  with  their  translations  into  pidgin,  and  to  parade 
such  crude  translations  as  "native  categories  of  thought" 
is  directly  misleading.  There  has  been  no  greater  source 
of  error  in  Anthropology  than  the  use  of  misunderstood 
and  misinterpreted  fragments  of  a  native  vocabulary  by 
observers  not  thoroughly  conversant  with  native  tongues 
and  ignorant  of  the  sociological  nature  of  language.  The 
misleading  effects  of  this  are  most  harmful  in  the  faulty 
collection,  in  the  field,  of  so-called  systems  of  classi- 
ficatory  kinship  terms,  and  in  the  reckless  speculative  use 
of  such  fragmentary  linguistic  material.^ 

To  one  who  uses  native  speech  freely,  a  clear  indica- 
tion of  the  shades  of  meaning  implicit  in  the  words 
bwoyna  and  gaga  is  given  by  their  phonetic  feeling-tone 
in  actual  utterance.  This,  together  with  the  emotional 
inflexion  of  the  whole  sentence,  the  facial  expression,  the 
accompanying  gestures  and  significant  behaviour,  gives  a 
number  of  clearly  marked  distinctions  in  meaning.  Thus, 
to  repeat,  gaga  can  express  genuine  moral  indignation 
amounting  to  real  horror,  or  serious  considerations  of  a 
purely  utilitarian  nature,  or,  spoken  with  a  smirk,  a 
pleasant  veniality.  Such  observations,  however,  though 
of  the  greatest  value  to  the  ethnographer  for  his  own 
guidance,  could  be  made  into  an  unambiguous  record  only 
by  means  of  a  phonograph  and  cinematograph,  which, 

1  This  thesis  will  be  developed  in  my  forthcoming  work  on  Psychology 
of  Kinship,  announced  in  the  International  Library  of  Psychology  (Kegan 


again,  by  the  nature  of  the  subject,  it  would  be  difficult 
if  not  impossible  to  use. 

Fortunately,  once  put  on  his  guard  and  instructed  by 
direct  observation  of  expressive  tone  and  gesture,  the 
ethnographer  can  substantiate  his  results  from  other 
material  more  easily  framed  into  convincing  documents. 
There  exist  a  number  of  circumlocutions  and  more  ex- 
plicit phrases,  which  the  natives  volunteer  in  elaborating 
the  meaning  of  bwoyna  and  gaga.  Such  elaborations  recur 
independently  in  the  statements  of  different  men  from 
different  villages  and  districts.  They  constitute  a  body  of 
linguistic  evidence  coinciding  with  emotional  distinctions, 
and  expressing  these  in  a  more  communicable  manner. 

When  speaking  of  the  most  serious  offences — ^the 
brother-sister  incest,  forbidden  fornication  within  the 
household,  or  open  indecency  between  husband  and  wife 
' — the  natives  say  the  word  gaga  very  seriously,  at  times 
with  real  horror  in  their  inflexion.  Then  an  informant 
would  be  more  explicit:  bayse  sene  gaga  ("this  is  very 
bad");  or  gaga^  g^g^y  a  repetition  which  intensifies  the 
sense  of  the  word;  or  gaga  mokita  ("truly  bad"),  and 
add:  sene  mwa^u  bayse,  gala  tavagi  ("this  is  very  heavy, 
we  do  not  do  it").  Or,  again,  when  pressed  to  say  what 
a  man  would  feel  or  do  if  he  committed  such  a  crime, 
the  native  would  usually  answer:  gala! — gala  tavagi — 
taytala  ta^u  ivagi — nanola  bigaga,  binagowa,  imamata, 
ilo^u:  "No,  we  don't  do  it.  If  a  man  did  it,  his  mind 
having  turned  wrong  and  silly,  he  would  wake  up  (i.e. 
become  sober  and  realize  his  crime)  and  commit  suicide." 
Or  he  might  say  more  negatively:  gala  tavagi — tanum^ 



way  lava,  or  gala  tavagi — tafnwasawa^  higagahile:  "We 
don't  do  it  and  then  forget,"  or  "We  don't  do  it  and  then 
play  round  and  remain  light-hearted."  Sometimes  an 
ordinary  informant  might  refuse  to  discuss  such  matters 
at  all:  bayse  gaga^  gala  talivala^  biga  gaga:  "This  is  bad, 
we  don't  speak  about  it,  it  is  bad  talk."  All  these  stock 
phrases  spoken  seriously,  or  with  disgust  and  anger,  ex- 
press the  strongest  disapproval.  Experience  and  tact 
teach  the  observer  that  such  subjects  must  never  be  ap- 
proached with  direct  reference  to  the  informant,  to  his 
sister  or  to  his  wife.  Even  the  friendliest  native,  if  acci- 
dentally hurt  by  a  tactless  remark  of  this  kind,  immedi- 
ately departs  and  remains  away  for  days.  All  such  sen- 
tences and  types  of  behaviour  define  the  first  meaning  of 
the  word  gaga. 

Gaga  in  some  contexts  can,  therefore,  mean  repugnant, 
horrible,  unspeakable  5  in  others  it  refers  to  the  naturally 
unpalatable  and  to  contemptible  actions  which  shock  the 
natives'  normal  sexual  impulse.  Here  the  feeling-tone 
ranges  from  simple  disgust  to  half -amused  malice.  The 
circumlocutions  run  as  follows:  gala  tavagi;  iminayna 
nanogu;  balagoba:  "We  don't  do  itj  my  mind  turns  sick 
(if  I  did  it)j  I  would  vomit."  Tonagowa  bayse  si 
vavagi:  "These  are  the  acts  of  a  mentally  deficient  per- 
son." Gala  tavagi y  kada  mwasila:  "We  don't  do  it,  be- 
cause we  are  ashamed."  Senegaga — makawala  mayna 
fofu:  "Very  bad — smells  like  excrement."  Makawala 
ka^ukwa — tomwota  gala:  "In  the  fashion  of  a  dog — ^not 
of  a  man."  That  is,  actions  worthy  of  a  dirty  animal 
and  not  of  a  human  being. 



They  can  give  definite  reasons  why  sexual  aberrations 
are  bad:  in  sodomy,  the  disgusting  nature  of  excrement  5 
in  exhibitionism,  a  contemptible  lack  of  shame  and  dig- 
nity j  in  oral  perversions,  the  unpleasant  taste  and  smell. 
All  these  sayings  express  the  second  meaning  of  the  word 
gagay  "unnatural,  disgusting,  not  worthy  of  a  sound 
human  being."  So  used,  it  implies  an  sesthetic  attitude 
as  well  as  a.  moral  one,  and  there  is  less  feeling  that 
a  traditional  commandment  has  been  broken  than  that  a 
natural  law  has  been  flouted. 

Another  class  of  sayings  defines  the  word  gaga  as 
meaning  "dangerous."  Gaga — Iglhuru^a  matauna:  tako- 
kola  bwaga^Uy  kidama  igisayda,  sene  mma^u — boge  bika- 
tumate:  "Bad — because  that  man  (the  aggrieved  man)  is 
angry  5  we  are  afraid  of  the  sorcerer,  if  they  see  us 
(doing  it),  the  punishment  would  be  heavy — already  we 
would  be  killed."  Or  again,  gala  tavagiy  fela  guya^Uy  or 
fela  la  mwala:  "We  don't  do  it  because  of  the  chief,"  or 
"because  of  the  husband."  Here  bad  means  "dangerous, 
exposing  to  revenge,  that  which  provokes  the  anger  of 
the  injured." 

Finally,  speaking  of  minor  taboos  we  would  be  told: 
Gaga  fela  bomala  bagula:  "Bad  because  of  the  taboo  of 
the  garden."  Gaga  fela  kabilia:  tavagi — boge  iyousi 
kayala:  "Bad,  because  of  war:  if  we  do  it — already  the 
spear  hits  us."  Here  the  word  gaga  qualifies  a  number  of 
actions  as  undesirable  and  to  be  avoided,  because  of  their 
specific  consequences. 

From  this  it  can  be  seen  that  the  classification  of  moral 
values  indicated  in  the  use  of  the  words  bwoyna  and  gaga 



roughly   corresponds   to   that    derived   from    the   word 

We  will  now  give  such  details  concerning  the  taboos 
on  our  list  as  have  not  been  mentioned  in  this  and  the 
foregoing  chapters,  taking  them  in  the  following  order: 
in  the  next  two  sections,  the  first  group  of  our  classifi- 
cation, general  sexual  prohibitions  j  in  sections  five  and 
six,  sociological  restrictions  on  sexual  freedom. 


The  widest  class  of  sexual  activity  excluded  from  native 
life  is  that  comprising  aberrations  of  the  sexual  impulse 
(No.  I  of  the  list  in  sec.  2).  The  natives  regard  such 
practices  as  bestiality,  homosexual  love  and  intercourse, 
fetishism,  exhibitionism,  and  masturbation  as  but  poor 
substitutes  for  the  natural  act,  and  therefore  as  bad  and 
only  worthy  of  fools.  Such  practices  are  a  subject  for 
derision,  tolerant  or  scathing  according  to  mood,  for 
ribald  jokes  and  for  funny  stories.  Transgressions  are 
rather  whipped  by  public  contempt  than  controlled  by 
definite  legal  sanctions.  No  penalties  are  attached  to 
them,  nor  are  they  believed  to  have  any  ill  results  on 
health.  Nor  would  a  native  ever  use  the  word  taboo 
{bomala)  when  speaking  of  them,  for  it  would  be  an 
insult  thus  to  assume  that  any  sane  person  would  like  to 
commit  them.  To  ask  a  man  seriously  whether  he  had 
indulged  in  such  practices  would  deeply  wound  his  vanity 
and  self-regard,  as  well  as  shock  his  natural  inclination. 



Vanity  would  be  especially  wounded,  by  the  implication 
that  he  must  be  unable  to  procure  the  full  natural  enjoy- 
ment of  his  impulse  if  he  has  to  resort  to  such  substitutes. 
The  Trobriander's  contempt  for  any  perversion  is  similar 
to  his  contempt  for  the  man  who  eats  inferior  or  impure 
things  in  place  of  good,  clean  food,  or  for  one  who  suflFers 
hunger  because  there  is  nothing  in  his  yamhouse. 

The  following  are  typical  remarks  on  the  subject  of 
perversions:  "No  man  or  woman  in  our  village  does  it.'^ 
"No  one  likes  to  penetrate  excrement."  "No  one  likes 
a  dog  better  than  a  woman."  "Only  a  tonagowa  (idiot) 
could  do  it."  "Only  a  tonagowa  masturbates.  It  is  a 
great  shame  j  we  know  then  that  no  woman  wants  to  copu- 
late with  him  J  a  man  who  does  it,  we  know,  cannot  get 
hold  of  a  woman."  In  all  native  statements  the  unsatis- 
factory nature  of  a  substitute  or  makeshift  is  emphasized, 
and  the  implication  is  of  poverty  as  well  as  of  mental 
and  sexual  deficiency.  The  natives  would  also  quote  in- 
stances such  as  that  of  Orato'u,  the  village  clown  of 
Omarakana,  deformed  and  defective  in  speech  j  the  sev- 
eral albinos  and  a  few  specially  ugly  women  j  and  say  that 
such  people,  but  not  an  ordinary  man  or  woman,  might 
practise  one  perversion  or  another. 

Of  course,  we  know  that  such  statements  of  a  general 
and  absolute  rule  express  a  figment,  an  ideal,  which,  in 
reality,  is  only  imperfectly  satisfied.  Most  of  these  aber- 
rations are  practised,  though  to  a  very  limited  extent,  just 
as  the  deficient  and  ugly  are  not  entirely  excluded  from 
the  normal  exercise  of  their  sexual  functions  (see  also 
ch.  X,  sec.  2). 



Let  us  now  consider  different  types  of  perversion. 

Homosexuality. — ^This  orientation  of  the  sexual  im- 
pulse, if  it  exists  at  all  among  the  Trobrianders,  can  be 
found  only  in  its  more  spiritual  manifestation,  that  is,  in 
emotional  and  Platonic  friendships.  It  is  allowed  by 
custom,  and  is,  indeed,  usual,  for  boy  friends  to  embrace 
one  another,  to  sleep  together  on  the  same  couch,  to  walk 
enlaced  or  arm-in-arm.  In  the  personal  friendships  which 
to  the  natives  naturally  express  themselves  by  such  bodily 
contacts,  strong  preferences  are  displayed.  Boys  are  often 
seen  in  couples:  Monakewo  and  Toviyamata,  Mekala'i 
and  Tobutusawa,  Dipapa  and  Burayama,  most  of  whom 
are  now  familiar  to  my  readers,  were  constantly  to  be 
seen  together.  Sometimes  such  a  friendship  is  just  a 
passing  whim,  but  it  may  survive  and  mature  into  a 
permanent  relationship  of  mutual  affection  and  assistance, 
as  did  that  between  Bagido'u  and  Yobukwa'u,  and,  I  was 
told,  between  Mitakata  and  Namwana  Guya'u  before 
these  two  became  implacable  enemies.  The  word 
lubaygUy  "my  friend,"  is  used  for  such  close  alliances 
between  man  and  man,  and  it  is  remarkable  that  this  word 
also  designates  the  love  relation  between  man  and  woman. 
But  it  would  be  as  erroneous  to  consider  this  identity  in 
language  as  implying  an  identity  in  emotional  content  as 
it  would  be  to  assume  that  every  time  a  Frenchman  uses 
the  word  amiy  a  homosexual  relation  is  implied,  simply 
because  of  its  connotation  when  used  by  one  sex  of  an- 
other. In  France,  as  in  the  Trobriands,  context  and  situ- 
ation distinguish  the  two  uses  of  the  word  ami  iluhaygu) 
and  makes  them  into  two  semantically  different  words. 


Difficult  as  it  is  exactly  to  draw  the  line  between  pure 
^'friendship"  and  "homosexual  relation"  in  any  society — 
both  because  of  laxity  in  definition  and  because  of  the  diffi- 
culty of  ascertaining  the  facts — it  becomes  almost  impos- 
sible in  a  community  such  as  the  Trobriands.  Personally, 
I  find  it  misleading  to  use  the  term  "homosexuality"  in  the 
vague  and  almost  intentionally  all-embracing  sense  that  is 
now  fashionable  under  the  influence  of  psycho-analysis 
and  the  apostles  of  ^^Urning*^  love.  If  inversion  be  de- 
fined as  a  relationship  in  which  detumescence  is  regularly 
achieved  by  contact  with  a  body  of  the  same  sex,  then  the 
male  friendships  in  the  Trobriands  are  not  homosexual, 
nor  is  inversion  extensively  practised  in  the  islands.  For, 
as  we  know,  the  practice  is  really  felt  to  be  bad  and 
unclean  because  it  is  associated  with  excreta,  for  which 
the  natives  feel  a  genuine  disgust.  And  while  the  ordi- 
nary caresses  of  affection  are  approved  as  between  mem- 
bers of  the  same  sex,  any  erotic  caresses,  scratching,  nib- 
bling at  eyelashes,  or  labial  contact  would  be  regarded 
as  revolting. 

As  we  have  said,  there  is  always  some  discrepancy  be- 
tween theory  and  practice  5  but  in  estimating  the  impor- 
tance of  exceptions,  we  must  allow  for  unnatural  condi- 
tions of  life  and  the  influence  of  other  civilizations. 
Many  natives  are,  under  the  present  rule  of  whites, 
cooped  up  in  gaol,  on  mission  stations,  and  in  plantation 
barracks.  Sexes  are  separated  and  normal  intercourse 
made  impossible  5  yet  an  impulse  trained  to  function  regu- 
larly cannot  be  thwarted.  The  white  man's  influence 
and  his  morality,  stupidly  misapplied  where  there  is  no 



place  for  it,  creates  a  setting  favourable  to  homosexuality. 
The  natives  are  perfectly  well  aware  that  venereal  disease 
and  homosexuality  are  among  the  benefits  bestowed  on 
them  by  Western  culture. 

Although  it  is  impossible  for  me  to  quote  any  well- 
authenticated  instance  of  this  perversion  from  the  old 
times,  I  have  no  doubt  that  sporadic  cases  have  always 
occurred.  Indeed,  the  existence  of  such  expressions  as 
ikaye  fofu:  "he  copulates  excrement,"  ikaye  fwala:  "he 
penetrates  rectum,"  and  the  well-defined  moral  attitude 
towards  it,  are  sufficient  evidence  of  this.  Some  inform- 
ants would  go  so  far  as  to  admit  that  homosexuality  had 
been  practised  formerly,  but  they  would  always  insist  that 
it  was  only  by  mentally  deficient  people.  On  the  whole, 
therefore,  it  is  clear  that  this  prohibition  is  not  imposed 
upon  an  unwilling  moral  acceptance,  but  is  well  en- 
trenched in  the  feeling  and  natural  impulse  of  the  natives. 
How  far  this  attitude  is  correlated  with  the  wide  and 
varied  opportunities  for  normal  intercourse  j  how  far  it 
is  true  that  homosexuality  is  more  efficiently  eradicated  by 
derision  than  by  heavy  penalties,  are  questions  which  can 
only  be  submitted  as  a  subject  for  further  observations 
in  the  field.^ 

Bestiality. — This  is  derided  as  an  unclean  and  unsatis- 
factory makeshift,  even  more  incongruous  and  comical 
than  inversion.  It  is  remarkable  that  among  a  totemic 
people — who  claim  affinity  with  animals,  and  treat  the  pig 
as  a  member  of  the  household — animal  sodomy  should 

^  Cf.  the  writer's  Sex  and  Repression  in  Savage  Societies,  1927,  where 
the  problem  has  been  discussed  at  length  in  part  ii. 



still  be  regarded  as  a  dirty  and  unnatural  practice.  The 
natives  see  no  continuity  or  relation  between  totemic  mar- 
riage and  intercourse,  on  the  one  hand,  as  these  took  place 
in  mythological  times,  and,  on  the  other,  what  might  be 
called  totemic  fornication  at  the  present  day. 

A  well-documented  case  of  bestiality  is  on  record,  how- 
ever, concerning  a  man  who  copulated  with  a  dog.  It  is 
noteworthy  that  the  case  is  famous  throughout  the  dis- 
trict, that  the  name  of  the  man,  all  the  circumstances,  and 
even  the  name  of  the  dog  "Jack"  are  household  words  in 
every  village.  It  is  also  interesting  that,  while  it  is  always 
described  or  alluded  to  with  considerable  amusement, 
there  are  clear  indications  that  the  matter  would  not  be  in 
the  least  amusing  if  it  concerned  oneself  or  a  kinsman 
or  friend.  "If  I  did  it,  or  any  one  of  my  maternal  kins- 
men or  friends,  I  would  commit  suicide."  Yet  the  culprit, 
Moniyala,  has  lived  down  his  shame.  He  leads  a  happy 
existence  in  Sinaketa,  where  I  had  the  pleasure  of  meeting 
him,  and  having  a  long  conversation  with  him.  The  sub- 
ject of  his  past  lapse,  however,  must  never  be  mentioned 
in  his  presence,  for,  the  natives  say,  if  he  heard  anyone 
speaking  about  it  he  would  commit  lo^u  (suicide  by  jump- 
ing from  a  tree). 

The  circumstances  of  this  case  were  as  follows:  Moni- 
yala was  serving  with  a  trader  who  owned  a  male  dog 
called  Jack.  The  two  became  friendly  and,  one  day, 
a  girl  saw  Moniyala  sodomizing  the  dog  on  the  beach. 
A  scandal  broke  out,  the  native  missionary  preacher 
brought  the  matter  before  the  white  resident  magistrate 
who  placed  Moniyala  in  gaol  for  six  months.    After  his 



release  Moniyala  signed  on  for  plantation  work  abroad 
and  stayed  on  the  mainland  of  New  Guinea  for  several' 
years.  When  he  came  back  he  was  able  to  brazen  it  out; 
but  everybody  seems  to  think  that,  in  old  days,  he  would 
have  committed  suicide.  The  natives  agree  that  a  dog 
is  worse  than  a  pig,  the  former  being  the  uncleaner  animal. 

Sadism  and  masochism. — Whether  these  complemen- 
tary perversions  play  a  large  part  in  the  sexual  life  of  the 
natives  I  am  unable  to  say.  The  cruel  forms  of  caress — 
scratching,  biting,  spitting — to  which  a  man  has  to  submit 
to  a  greater  extent  even  than  the  woman,  show  that,  as 
elements  in  eroticism,  they  are  not  absent  from  native  love- 
making.  On  the  other  hand,  flagellation  as  an  erotic 
practice  is  entirely  unknown;  and  the  idea  that  cruelty, 
actively  given  or  passively  accepted,  could  lead,  of  itself 
alone,  to  pleasant  detumescence  is  incomprehensible,  nay 
ludicrous,  to  the  natives.  I  should  say,  therefore,  that 
these  perversions  do  not  exist  in  a  crystallized  form. 

Fellatio. — ^This  is  probably  practised  in  the  intimacy 
of  love-making  (see  above,  ch.  x,  sec.  12).  Receiving  my 
information  exclusively  from  men,  I  was  told  that  no 
male  would  touch  the  female  genitals  in  this  manner,  but, 
at  the  same  time,  I  was  assured  thzt  fenilinctus  was  ex- 
tensively practised.  I  do  not  feel  convinced,  however,  of 
the  truth  of  this  masculine  version.  The  expression, 
ikanumwasi  kalu  momonay  "lapping  up  the  sexual  dis- 
charges," designates  both  forms  of  fellatio. 

Masturbation  {ikivayni  kwila:  "he  manipulates  penis," 
isulumomoni:  "he  makes  semen  boil  over")  is  a  recog- 
nized practice  often  referred  to  in  jokes.     The  natives 



maintain,  however,  that  it  would  be  done  only  by  an  idiot 
{tonagowa)  or  one  of  the  unfortunate  albinos,  or  one 
defective  in  speech  5  in  other  words,  only  by  those  who 
cannot  obtain  favours  from  women.  The  practice  is 
therefore  regarded  as  undignified  and  unworthy  of  a  man, 
but  in  a  rather  amused  and  entirely  indulgent  manner. 
Exactly  the  same  attitude  is  adopted  towards  female 
masturbation  (ikivayni  wila:  "she  manipulates  cunnus"j 
il?asi  wila  o  yamala:  "she  pierces  vagina  with  her  hand"). 

Nocturnal  follutions  and  dreams  have  already  been 
mentioned  (see  ch.  xii,  sec.  i).  They  are  regarded,  as 
we  know,  as  the  result  of  magic  and  a  proof  of  its  effec- 

Exhibitionism  is  regarded  by  the  natives  with  genuine 
contempt  and  disgust:  this  has  already  been  made  clear 
in  the  above  description  of  the  manner  of  dressing  and 
the  careful  adjustment  of  the  male  pubic  leaf  and  femi- 
nine grass  skirt. 

In  the  treatment  of  these  deviations  of  the  sexual  im- 
pulse, it  is  impossible  to  draw  a  rigid  line  between  the  use 
of  certain  practices — such  as  fellatio,  passionate  and 
exuberant  caresses,  interest  in  the  genitals — when  they  are 
used  as  preliminary  and  preparatory  sexual  approaches 
on  the  one  hand,  and  as  definite  perversions  on  the  other. 
The  best  criterion  is  whether  they  function  as  a  part  of 
courting,  leading  up  to  normal  copulation,  or  whether 
they  are  sufficient  by  themselves  for  the  production  of 
detumescence.  It  is  well  to  remember  in  this  context  that 
the  nervous  excitability  of  the  natives  is  much  less  than 
ours,    and   their    sexual   imagination   is   relatively   very 



sluggish  j  that  excitation  and  tumescence  are  usually 
achieved  only  by  the  direct  visual,  olfactory,  or  tactual 
stimulus  of  the  sexual  organs  3  and  that  orgasm,  in  man  or 
woman,  requires  more  bodily  contact,  erotic  preliminaries, 
and,  above  all,  direct  friction  of  the  mucous  membranes 
for  its  production.  It  is,  therefore,  plausible  to  assume 
that  preparatory  erotic  approaches  with  the  natives  would 
have  less  tendency  to  pass  into  autonomous  acts,  that  is 
to  develop  into  perversions,  than  is  the  case  among  ner- 
vously more  excitable  races.